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University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 



Oscar Lewis 
LITERARY SAN FRANCISCO 



An Interview Conducted by 
Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun 



Berkeley 
1965 



Oscar Lewis at home, at 2740 Union Street, June 30, 1965 




Photograph by Catherine Harroun 
Reproduction rights reserved 



SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE 
July 14, 1992 




OSCAR LEWIS 

1 955 photo of S.F. native 

Oscar Lewis, 99, 
Author and Historian 
Of S.F. and the West 

By Harre W. Demoro 

Chronicle Staff Writer 

Author and historian Oscar 
Lewis, the last of the old San Fran 
cisco bohemians who wrote exten 
sively about the history of San 
Francisco and the West, is dead at 
age 99. 

Mr. Lewis died Saturday at his 
home on Union Street in San Fran 
cisco. The San Francisco native 
had been ill for about two years. 

"He lived by the pen. We will 
not see his likes again," said histo 
rian Kevin Starr, a longtime 
friend. 

"Oscar Lewis held down the 
genteel wing of San Francisco's 
prewar bohemian tradition with 
good tailoring, bow ties and man- 
hattans before lunch," said Starr, 
former city librarian of San Fran 
cisco and a professor of urban his 
tory at the University of Southern 
California. 

Mr. Lewis emerged as an au 
thor and historian in the 1930s, 
when Californians began examin 
ing their pioneer past and cele 
brating their heritage. His books 
were among the first to define the 
West in the context of its history. 



Mr. Lewis was courted by East 
ern publishers, especially Alfred 
Knopf. Knopf saw the West not as 
a province of the East which 
was the literary fashion of the time 
but as a region important in its 
own right that was enriched by 
many cultures. 

"The Big Four," Mr. Lewis' 
best-known book, which was pub 
lished in 1938, told how four rob 
ber barons built the first transcon 
tinental railroad. It is still in print. 

Mr. Lewis' works included: 
"The Silver Kings," "Fabulous San 
Simeon," "Sutler's Fort: Gateway 
to the Gold Fields," "Sea Routes to 
the Gold Fields," "Bay Window Bo 
hemia," "Sage Brush Casinos," 
"High Sierra Country," "The Town 
That Died Laughing," "A History 
of San Francisco" and "Frank Nor- 
_ ris and the Wave." 

Mr. Lewis grew up in Sebasto- 
pol. He gained an appreciation of 
California by accompanying his 
mother, a music teacher, during 
her travels around the state to see 
her pupils. 

Unlike most professional histo 
rians today, Mr. Lewis did not have 
a college degree and did not sup 
plement his income by teaching. 
For most of his career, he earned 
his living solely by writing. 

After graduating from Berke 
ley High School, Mr. Lewis entered 
the University of California at 
Berkeley but stayed for only about 
a year and quit in 1912 to write. 
During World War I, he served in_ 
an ambulance squad sponsored by 
the university. 

In 1918, he rented an office in 
Berkeley. To support himself, he 
took a part-time job as secretary of 
the Book Club of California. 

Mr. Lewis was a member of the 
Bohemian Club and the Western 
ers. He served on the San Francis 
co Art Commission from 1944 to 
1960. 

His only immediate survivor is ; 
a stepson, Addison Mooney of San 
Francisco. 

At his request, there will be no 
service. His ashes will be placed in 
a family plot in a private cemetery 
in Sebastopol. 



All uses of this manuscript are covered by an 
agreement between the Regents of the University 
of California and Oscar Lewis, dated 1 September 
1965. The manuscript is thereby made aval 
for research purposes. All literary rights in 
the manuscript, including the right to publish, 
are reserved to The Bancroft Library of 
University of California at Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be ouoted for tmblicat 
without the written permission of the 
of The Bancroft Library of the University 
California at Berkeley. 



INTRODUCTION 

Oscar Lewis has long been one of Northern California's 
most productive authors, nationally esteemed for his "books 
on Western history and his novels in Western settings. 
His best known book, The Big Four, an iconoclastic study 
of the builders of the Central Pacific Railroad, was 
published by Knopf in 1938. But his career as a writer 
for national publication had begun in 1912, before he was 
twenty, when he rented an office room in Berkeley and ap 
plied himself to his typewriter with the workmanlike self- 
discipline that has characterized his approach to authorshit). 

Born in 1893 in San Francisco, Mr. Lewis has st>ent most 
of his life in the Bay Area. In this interview, he recalls 
his youth in Sonoma County and Berkeley; his choice of an 
author's career instead of a college education; his exneri- 
ence in World War I; his stories and articles for The Smart 
Set and other well known magazines of the 1920' s; his travels 
in Europe and North Africa; his years as secretary of the 
Book Club of California; the writers, bibliophiles, fine 
printers and artists he has known; and the circumstances of 
many of the books to which he has devoted his major attention 



ii 



in the past twenty-five years. 

A quiet, unassuming gentleman with a great store of 
humor, Mr. Lewis met the first suggestion of this inter 
view with mild surprise that anyone should be interested 
in his recollections. His reaction was not unanticioated, 
for the interviewers had read a letter in the Gertrude 
Atherton collection in The Bancroft Library which he had 
written in 1945. Mrs. Atherton had asked Mr. Lewis to 
supply information about himself to be used in her book, 
My San Francisco. He replied: 

Dear Mrs. Atherton: 

Here are some notes on the life and works of 
Oscar Lewis. Maybe you will find them interesting 
but I doubt it. Most writers, I've discovered, are 
always having important or exciting or amusing things 
happen to them. I'm an exception. I've known writers 
who can go down to the corner to buy a bottle of milk 
and get involved in a hair-raising adventure; I could 
spend ten years in Central Africa and come out with a 
story about as wildly exciting as a trolly ride to the 
beach. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is with me. 
Anyhow, here are some random notes. 

His notes for Mrs. Atherton were carefully prepared 
and apparently precisely what was wanted, for they are 
closely followed in the book. Similarly, having consented 
to be interviewed by the Regional Oral History Office, he 



iii 



carefully organized his recollections and presented a 
thoughtful and interesting account of his life, work, 
associates, and views on writing. 

The interview took olace in the living room of the 
apartment on Union Street near the Presidio in San Francisco 
where Mr. Lewis lives and works. It was in four Darts, on 
the afternoons of June 22, June 28, June 30, and July 6, 
1965. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to 
tape record autobiographical interviews with nersons nrorai- 
nent in recent California history. The Office is under the 
direction of Mrs. Willa Baum, and under the administrative 
supervision of Professor A. Hunter Duuree, Director cf The 
Bancroft Library. Past interviews by the Office which may 
supplement the material covered in this interview have been 
done with Elsie Whitaker Martinez, Kathleen Norris, Herbert 
Coggins, and Edward deWitt Taylor and others are underway in 
the fields of literature, publishing, and orinting. 



Ruth Teiser 
Catherine Harroun 
Interviewers 

15 December 1965 

Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California 
Berkeley, California 



iv 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION i 

TABLE OP CONTENTS iv 

FAMILY AMD CHILDHOOD 1 

BEGINNING TO WRITE 13 

WORLD WAR I SERVICE 24 

WRITING FOR THE LITERARY MAGAZINES 27 

EUROPE AND NORTH AFRICA 33 

THE BOOK CLUB OF CALIFORNIA 36 

Albert Bender 49 

SAN FRANCISCO PRINTERS 64 

WRITER AND ARTIST NEIGHBORS 79 

LITERARY PEOPLE AND LIFE OF SAN FRANCISCO 84 

CLUBS, SOCIETIES AND LIBRARIES 97 

WRITING 103 

Book Publishers and the West 120 

BOOK REVIEWING 133 

SAN FRANCISCO ART COMMISSION 136 

THE WRITER IN THE WEST 139 

PARTIAL INDEX 144 



FAMILY AND CHILDHOOD 

Interv: Could we begin by talking about your family? 

Lewis: Well, I will start with my father because I know much 
less about his ancestry; he died when I was two years 
old so all I would know about him is what my mother 
told me about him. His name being Lewis his full name 
was William P. Lewis it is almost certain that his 
family came from Wales because Lewis in Wales is almost 
like Smith and Jones in the United States. My father 
was born in New Jersey, the town of Montclair, but the 
family must have moved to St. Louis because he came to 
California from St. Louis. H e came out because the firm 
he was working for had the contract to put the windows 
in the old Palace Hotel which was being built in the 
early '70' s. I never knew if his firm put the glass in, 
or the cases, or what, but it's not very important. 
Anyway, when that job was finished he became a builder, 
a speculative builder. He'd buy up half a block or a 
block of land and divide it into twenty-five foot lots 



Lewis: and "build these Victorian residences, always bay windows 
in front. We all know what they looked like, 

Interv: Do you know of any he built? 

Lewis: We used to have a stack of pictures of rows of houses 

that he had done but they've all disappeared except two 
or three. The location is not given so they could be 
almost anywhere. He had an office down at 18 Post Street, 
which in those days was on the ground floor of the old 
Lick House; now the Crocker-Citizens Bank is there, al 
most right across from the Mechanics Library. 

What he used to do was build these houses, sell them 
for a small down payment, just like they sell tract houses 
now, and then he'd take the contracts to the bank and use 
them as security for loans with which to buy another 
piece of land and put up more houses. He did that for 
about ten years, and prospered until the early '90's. 
Shortly before that he and two other builders who were 
doing the same thing went in together and helped finance 
a lumber operation up in Mendocino County. I don't re 
member the names of the other builders. They bought 
timber land and put up a saw mill, the idea being that 
that way they could buy lumber at less than the market 
price. That went along fine until the early 'QO's and 



Lewis: then there was a severe depression here in San Francisco. 
Building almost stopped and the market for lumber almost 
disappeared. This new saw mill was soon in financial 
difficulties. 

My father's mother was still back in St. Louis and 
she became ill. He went back and stayed there about a 
month. She died and he settled the small estate. While 
he was gone the word got out that this lumber mill was 
about to fail. The other two co-signers of the note 
learned about it and were able to unload their own prop 
erty I don't know just what the legal phases of it were 
but by the time my father got here in the meantime the 
creditors of the lumber company had sued and the conmany 
had gone into bankruptcy, they had attached all my father's 
properties for this $75,000 note. That just cleaned him 
out completely. All he had left was the furniture in our 
house, which was on Jackson and Baker Streets, just a few 
blocks from where I live now. 

Interv: Wasn't that pretty far out at the time? 

Lewis: It was. I remember my mother saying that she had to walk 
down four blocks of board sidewalk to get to the nearest 
streetcar, the California Street cablecar. That's where 
I was born, on May 5, 1893. 



Lewis: But aa I was saying, all he had left was the house 
hold furniture which was somehow exempt, and a ranch up 
in Sonoma County which he had taken as a down payment on 
one of his houses. It was heavily mortgaged, one hundred 
sixty acres, and his plan was to use it as a summer place, 
take us kids up there in the summer. But that is all he 
had, so he moved the family up there. 

Interv: When was that? 

Lewis: Probably 1894. I was very young, maybe three months old. 
I was in no position to know the year. Well, anyway, he 
started over again. He opened a little office in Santa 
Rosa, built two houses, was just getting started, and then 
he got cancer and died within two or three months and left 
my mother with five kids, five sons, and this mortgaged 
ranch and no support. But she was not much worried about 
that. She'd been a musician before she was married, and 
she started giving music lessons to the daughters of the 
other farmers. One of my earliest recollections is riding 
around in the buggy with her, and waiting outside while 
she went inside and gave an hour's lesson, for which she 
got fifty cents. And she later opened studios in 
Sebastopol, which was the nearest town, and another little 
town called Bloomfield. I don't know if you know of 



Lewis: Bloomfield; it's now very much of a ghost town, there may 
be twenty people there. It was a little bigger in the 
'90's. Mother used to go once a week to Bloomfield and 
the pupils would come in to her. 

Interv: Where was the ranch itself? 

Lewis: It was about midway between the two. It was about three 
miles west of Sebastopol very attractive country. It's 
the Gravenstein orchard country. It looks out over the 
Santa Rosa Valley very attractive country. And it was 
an attractive ranch. The only trouble was that it didn't 
bring in anything. We raised food to feed us kids. We 
had a cow and a vegetable garden and fruit, etc. 

Interv: Was it orchard land? 

Lewis: There was an orchard and a berry patch. The rest was some 
pasture land and a couple of fields of hay. That went on 
from the time my father died, which was 1895, to 1905, ten 
years later. Then my mother remarried. She married a man 
named. Lennon, Edward P. Lennon, whom she'd known here in 
San Francisco before she married. 

Lennon had married and moved up to Tehama County to 
Red Bluff. He was a county official up there. He was a 
public administrator and coroner of Tehama County. His 
wife had died, and he and mother got into correspondence 



Lewis: again and got married. And we moved up to Red Bluff. 

I started school at a little country one-room 
schoolhouse near Sebastonol. Then I went to and finished 
grammar school in Red Bluff. But my mother's marriage 
didn't work out. And after two or three years they 
were divorced. She and us kids moved back to the 
Sebastopol ranch. This is all very complicated. I 
don't know whether you're interested or not. 

Interv: Yes. It's very interesting, I should think. 

Lewis: We went back to the Sebastopol ranch for a year. I had 
four brothers, Walter, Harry, William, and Harold; I was 
next to the youngest, between William and Harold. The 
two older brothers, Walter and Harry, are no longer 
living. My next older brother had gotten through high 
school in Red Bluff, and entered at Gal as a freshman. 
So my mother decided to move us kids to Berkeley and about 
1910 we moved down to Berkeley. 

I finished my high school there and mother continued 
living there until she died, in 1933. She survived her 
husband from '95 nearly forty years. That's about all I 
can say about my father's side of the family. 

But I'd like to say something briefly about my mother's 
background because it's interesting and I know more about it. 



I've been thinking about it lately because a project has 
come up for which I may get a grant to do a biography of 
a prominent early American architect who lived in 
Philadelphia. His name was Thomas U. Walter. He was 
the federal architect from 1850 to 1865 in Washington. 
It was he who designed the Capitol as we know it today; 
that is, he designed the Senate and House wings and the 
dome. He also did a number of other government buildings 
in Washington and a great many buildings in Philadelphia. 
He was my mother's grandfather. 

I'll tell you briefly how I became interested in 
this projected biography of Walter. When I was working 
on a book about George Davidson I went back to Washington 
to do some research there because Davidson was for years 
with the Coast and Geodetic Survey. While I was back 
there I thought I would check on what my great-great grand 
father had been doing in Washington. I found a lot of 
material, letters and such, in the Federal Architect's 
Office, in the National Archives, and in the Library of 
Congress. Somebody in the National Archives said I must 
go to Philadelphia and look up a man who was connected with 
an organization there architectural historians or some 
thing of the sort because he was an enthusiast of Walter's 



8 



Lewis: work and was trying to get a biography of him published. 
So I went to see this chap and we talked about the plan. 
Nothing developed at that time, but about six months ago 
I got a letter from him telling me that he had lined up 
what he thought was a surefire grant to finance research 
and publication of a biography. So I went back last fall. 
At the time it looked as though the plan was going through, 
but it now develops that a number of different organiza 
tions would have to okay the plan. The prospect of having 
to get twenty different groups to agree on the nroject has 
made me doubtful of the outcome. If it happens, fine, but 
I'm not counting on it. 

Walter's son, my grandfather, came out here soon after 
the Civil War. He was in the Civil War. My mother was 
born in the little town of Whitestown, Indiana. Her 
father was an attorney there. 

Interv: What was his first name? 

Lewis: Horace. Soon after the war was over, he came out to 

California, in 1866 or '67. One of the men he had been 
with in the war was a man named Barnes, who became an at 
torney here in San Francisco, General W.H.L. Barnes. He wrote 
my grandfather and asked him to come out and join the law 
firm. So he came out. The first assignment he was given 



Lewis: was to go down to Monterey and take depositions and in 
terview people in preparation for one of the land ^rant 
cases. The courts were still full of land grant cases 
at that time. So my grandfather went down to Monterey 
and spent about a month and finally started back with 
his depositions and transcripts of interviews. He went 
down to the wharf. In those days most of the travel up 
and down the coast was by steamer; it v/as before the rail 
road reached Monterey. The boat sailed at midnight. 
After it was out about an hour, one of the deck hands 
came up to the bridge and said somebody was lying in 
the bow of the boat. It proved to be my grandfather. 
He had been hit over the head and supposedly thrown into 
the bay. But he had landed on the deck of this steamer. 
The boat turned around, but he was dead when they got 
back to the wharf. There was some investigation, but 
no arrests were made and nothing was ever done. His 
valise containing the material he collected had disap 
peared. 

Interv: My word! 

Lewis: So there's at least some violence and mystery in the fam 
ily tree. 

Interv: What land grant was this? 



10 



Lewis: Barnes was representing the holders of the original 

Mexican-Spanish grant. The land was occupied by a fam 
ily that was then prominent on the Monterey Peninsula. 
I don't know whether I should mention names because it 
was circumstantial evidence. 

My grandmother was one of those very imt)ractical 
people, I remember her sitting in her rocking chair and 
ordering people to wait on her she'd been doing it all 
her life. She was left alone with five children. My 
mother was the eldest. A friend of her father, a sea 
captain, offered my grandmother to support the family 
if my mother would marry him, although he was about 
twice her age. That was my mother's first marriage. My 
two older brothers, half-brothers really, were from this 
first marriage. They were divorced after five or six 
years. Several years later my mother married my father. 

Interv: Your mother must have been a woman of courage. 

Lewis: I told you what happened after my father died and left 
her with five children and no money. She wasn't fazed 
by any of that. I wanted to have some reference to both 
sides of the family. 

Interv: What was her maiden name? And her first husband's name, 
just so we have the records all straight. 



11 



Lewis: Her maiden name was Anna Walter. Her first husband was 
Mark M. Robbins. 

Interv: Were your parents great readers? 

Lewis: I don't know enough about my father to know. My mother 
liked to read. But she was primarily a businesswoman. 
Even after she settled in Berkeley she did a lot of 
buying and selling of real estate. She didn't have 
much money, but if she could buy a niece of orooerty 
she liked and pay as little as $100 down, she never 
hesitated. She'd trust to luck that she could resell 
it and make a small profit. And she was getting along 
very well until once more, as had happened to my father 
in the early 1890's,the 1929 depression came along. 
During her last few years it was just nip and tuck. 

Interv: What happened to your family in the 1923 fire in Berkeley? 

Lewis: We were out in the Solano Avenue district of Berkeley, 

out of the burned area. I remember the fire quite well. 

Interv: What high school did you go to in Berkeley? 

Lewis: The regular Berkeley High School. Of course it was quite 
different from what it is today. It was on the same site, 
but I don't think there's one of the original buildings 
there now. 

Interv: Did you like living in that much of a city after having 



12 



Interv: lived in the country and in Red Bluff? 

Lewis: I didn't mind, except that Berkeley High School was 



quite a change my first year of high school was in 
Sebastopol. They'd just opened a new school there, 
and I was in the first class. By the way, that school 
has since been demolished as obsolete and replaced by 
a new school, which makes me realize I'm not as young 
as I used to be. By the time I got to Berkeley, with 
all our moving around, I had lost a term here and there, 
and the consequence was that I was older than most of 
my classmates. I was nineteen when I got out of high 
school; that was in 1913. I didn't take any particular 
part in the school activities. 



13 



BEGINNING TO WRITE 



Interv: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? 

Lewis: Perhaps it was because I had an English teacher at 

Berkeley High School who asked me to stay after class 
one day. She said she'd been watching the papers I had 
turned in. She said she thought I had a real talent 
for writing. Well you know what that could do to a 
high school kid. I took it seriously. I began trying 
to write short stories adventure stories for boys. 
Somewhere I picked up a magazine, I think it was called 
The Writer's Magazine, that listed markets for literary 
material. There I read that one magazine I remember 
it very well called forward needed stories. Forward 
was a weekly publication that was distributed in the 
Presbyterian Sunday schools. In those days papers of 
that sort were given to the children at all the Sunday 
schools. That group of papers published short stories-- 
articles, serial stories that sort of thing. 

So I wrote a story in longhand and sent it to the 
Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia, I 



14 



Lewis: remember and more or less forgot about it. Then a 

month or so later I got an envelope and a nrinted forir 
saying, "We are accenting for Forward your story, and we 
enclose our check for $12.00." Well when I saw the 
check I wondered how long that had been going on. 
(Laughter) You get paid for doing something you like 
to do. So naturally, I kept on. By the time I was out 
of high school I had sold three stories to boys' maga 
zines. And I think the total I got for them was about 
$35.00. 

Interv: Do you remember what the other magazines were? 

Lewis: I think I sold two to Forward and one to a magazine called 
The Boys' World. The Boys* World was an inter-denomina 
tional paper. It was distributed to all Sunday schools, 
not to any particular sect. The David C. Cook Company 
of Elgin, Illinois, which published it, were dealers in 
Sunday school supplies. During the next two years I 
wrote a lot for the Cook Company. Besides The Boys* 
World , which in those days had a very large circulation, 
the firm published another magazine called Young People's 
Weekly. 

When I started writing boys' stories it was much 
easier than it would be for anyone starting now. In 



15 



Lewis: those days the kids did a lot more reading, apparently, 

than they do now. There was no radio or television chen. 
In my day there were, besides the Sunday school papers, 
five or six excellent young people's magazines. The 
Youth's Companion, for instance, and Saint Nicholas, and 
The American Boy. When I was writing for The American 
Boy the editor was Clarence Buddington Kelland. 

Interv: He was? 

Lewis: Yes, you know he became a writer of serials for the 

Saturday Evening Post. He died just recently. He must 
have been quite an old man. 

Another fine magazine was the Boy Scouts' official 
magazine, called Boys' Life. I had an interesting thing 
happen just recently in connection with Boys* Life. I 
was looking through a box of old magazine writings, mostly 
boys' magazines; and I came upon this copy of Boys * Life 
with a story of mine in it, and happened to notice the 
name of the man who had illustrated it. I'm sure that 
when I first saw it the name meant nothing to me; he was 
a beginner, just as I was. But when I looked at it a year 
or so ago, I found that the artist was Norman Rockwell. 
It was probably one of the very first things he did. 

Interv: How old were you when you sold your first story? 



16 



Lewis: I was probably about 18. 

Interv: Did you know any other writers? 

Lewis: No I didn't. 

I stayed out of school until the following summer, 
and then I went to summer school at Gal because I needed 
to make up some credits to get in as a freshman. Then in 
the fall of 1914, I enrolled as a special student I was 
still on probation because I didn't have all my credits-- 
and I began taking freshman English. Everybody had to 
take the same English course as a freshman, and I believe 
we began by reading The Lady of the Lake. And here I was, 
a published author, having to study The Lady of the Lake. 
Of course I felt myself above all that. What I wanted to 
do was to take some upper division English literature 
courses, especially one on creative writing which was 
being given by Ben Lehman. Lehman later was head of the 
English department. B.H. Lehman, do you remember him? 

Interv: Why, yes! I didn't realize that he went back that far. 

Lewis: Yes, he was there in 1914. Well, I screwed up my courage 
and went to see Lehman and told him what I was doing. I 
told him I wanted to take one of his courses and one other- 
I think it was a course given by Charles Mills Gayley, 
though I might be mistaken about that. I told Lehman 



17 



Lewis: about what I had in mind and he said, "Yes, I'll 

you permission." I made it clear that I didn't plan to 
stay the full four years and work for a degree. Then he 
said, "I think you'll learn more about writing by going 
on and doing what you're doing, than by taking our English 
courses here." Which was probably not very diplomatic on 
his part. But I took his advice and quit, and Lehman 
later became a good friend of mine. He sometimes used to 
read my manuscripts and criticize them. I still see him 
occasionally; he lives down at Los Gatos now and he has 
long since retired. 

Interv: Yes. Wasn't that amazing of anyone in tirof essional 
education? 

Lewis: Well, I don't think he took such matters over-seriously. 
If he wanted to tell some people he thought they could 
learn better by themselves, he'd go ahead and tell them. 

Interv: So you didn't enroll again? 

Lewis: No, I didn't. I think I went for maybe three weeks or so. 

Interv: You had been going the summer before though? 

Lewis: Yes, I'd gone to summer school and taken a counle of 
courses. 

Interv: Incidentally, you mentioned your high school teacher; do 
you remember her name? 



18 



Lewis: I think her name was Gertrude Henderson, I talked re 
cently with a classmate of mine, Allan Sproul, you know, 
Bob Sproul 's younger brother. He was in my class at 
Berkeley High School. We hadn't met for at least forty 
years, and then we met a year or two ago when we were 
both serving on a committee at the California Historical 
Society. 

Interv: You still remember all of your high school class? I 
suppose it was a small class'-' 1 

Lewis: I remember some of them. I don't think it was very big. 
There might have been fifty students. I'd probably re 
member them if I saw them. One or two were in my outfit 
in World War I, so, of course I remember them quite well. 

Interv: Was Berkeley a lively place for a young man starting out 
on a writing career? Was it a particularly good place? 

Lewis: Well, it was a good place in that with the university 

there were good library facilities. But in my beginning 
years I didn't make any particular use of the university 
library. I used it occasionally, particularly in doing 
non-fiction, you know, I'd go there to look up the back 
grounds. For that ournose it was much better than the 
Berkeley library, which was on the same site as the present 
library, but much smaller. 



19 



Interv: Did your mother encourage your writing? 

Lewis: Yes, she was interested in it, and rather amused by 
it. Of course, I lived with her those first years 
when I was breaking into the trade. I remember that 
when I decided to go seriously into the business, I 
rented an office on Shattuck Avenue in an office building, 
I paid ten dollars per month, and moved in a kitchen 
table, and chair, and a typewriter. I kept regular hours, 

Interv: My word, that showed a good deal of business ability. 

Lewis: I was trying to make a living at it. 

Interv: And you did. 

Lewis: Yes, I certainly didn't make any large income, but it was 
enough and I got by. And I assembled enough to--this was 
later, after World War I 

Interv: Someone said that you had been a journalist at the Panama- 
Pacific Exposition. Is that correct? 

Lewis: I'll tell you about that. At the time of the Pair, I 
was writing not only fiction, but anything I thought I 
could sell. I went over to see the head of the Pair's 
publicity department, which was located in the Press 
Building on the grounds. The Press Building, I 'think, 
was just down the hill from here, near the Scott Street 
entrance. The press department pool wouldn't give me a 



20 



Lewis: job or salary, but when I told them I wanted to free 
lance, to write articles about the Exposition and sell 
them on my own, they were of course perfectly willing 
to cooperate. I was given a pass to the Exposition, 
which I was very proud of. And at the Press Building I 
always had the use of a typewriter. Also they would sup- 
ply me with whatever pictures I needed. Mostly if you 
wanted to sell an article you had to illustrate it. Of 
course I kept whatever I got from the sale of my stuff. 
The publicity department helped me to the extent of sup 
plying illustrations and data and things like that. 
What I did mostly was I would write articles on the 
various states. Quite a number of states had their own 
buildings and I'd write an article on the building and 
the exhibits and send it to one of the leading news 
papers in that state. Often they'd return it, saying 
that they could get this press material free so why 
should they pay for mine? But, once in a while one of 
the newspapers would buy an article, and I would get 
maybe $25.00 for it. 

Interv: Twenty-five dollars! 

Lewis: Yes, that was about the extent of it. Of course, in 
those days, most of the metropolitan newspapers had 



21 



Lewis: their own Sunday supolements. It wasn't like today when, 
you know, they use so much syndicated material. That was 
another outlet for beginning writers that no longer 
exists today. 

Interv: Yes, I suppose that's true. 

Was the Pair a wonderful experience for you, the 
Fair itself? 

Lewis: I remember I enjoyed it. I didn't have to pay to get in. 
So I used to go quite often. (Laughter) 

Interv: Had you been in San Francisco much before that? 

Lewis: No, not particularly. I was living in Berkeley. I don't 
suppose I came over any more than most Berkeley people 
did. 

Interv: Did you enjoy being in the city at the time of the Fair? 
Or did you just come directly back and forth? 

Lewis: I don't remember. I used to wander around the city 

quite a lot, often looking for material. I remember I 
once wrote an article on Golden Gate Park for a Sunday 
newspaper back in the mid-west that used to take oc 
casional articles. 

Interv: We came across an article on Chinatown in the Overland. 
I guess that was a little later. That was in a 1917 
Overland Monthly. 

Lewis: Probably, yes. That was just the end of the period 



22 



Lewis: before World War I. 

Interv: When you were being a journalist at the Pair, did you 

meet other professional journalists there? 
Lewis: I met some of them on the publicity staff. I think there 

was a fellow named Prank Morton Todd, who later wrote a 

history of the Pair. I believe he was one of that proup. 

I don't remember any of the others. 
Interv: No one particularly who was influential. 
Lewie: Not particularly, at that time. There was a chap named 

John Barry, but that was after World War I. He had a 

column on the Bulletin for a long time. John D. Barry. 

He lived in Sausalito. 

In the army, in World War I, there were a couple of 

fellows in my unit who later became newspaper people. 

Marsh Maslin, whom you probably remember. 
Interv: Oh, yes. 
Lewis: And Johnny Bruce who was city editor of the Chronicle, 

I think, and later of the Call-Bulletin, 
Interv: Yes. Those really were then your first associations 

with other people that were doing about the same thing 

that you were doing. 
Lewis: I suppose, to an extent, but neither of them was doing 



Lewis: free lance writing the kind of stuff that I was doing. 
They were sensible enough to get a job where they 
could be sure of a regular Saturday night check. (Laughter) 



24 



WORLD WAR I SERVICE 



Interv: How did you happen to decide to break into your career 
and go off with the army? 

Lewis: World War I came along and the United States got into 
it. Every young fellow wanted to get into some branch 
of the service. Besides, there was the draft, so if you 
didn't volunteer, you would have been drafted. I'd gone 
in quite early with a group from Gal that had been or 
ganized before we got into the war. It was then called 
the American Field Service. These groups went over to 
work with the French Army, you know, ambulance drivers. 
But when the war was declared they were taken into the 
United States Army. 

Interv: Oh, I see. 

Lewis: We were sent back to Allentown, Pennsylvania, which 

was the training camp for the ambulance corps. And some 
of the first units that got back to Allentown were sent 
overseas quite quickly. But then, according to the story 



25 



Lewis: that went around the camp, the French government or the 
French military officials said, "We appreciate your 
sending over ambulance drivers when you were not in the 
war. But now that the United States is in the war, we 
would really prefer having you Americans go up to the 
front lines and fight, rather than carry the French 
wounded back from the front." That sounded reasonable. 
So what happened was whether that story's true or not 
they stopped sending the ambulance units overseas. And-- 
after many weeks of waiting with nothing happening we 
began transferring out into other services. I and some 
of my group joined a new organization that was to operate 
something called Mobile Laboratories. That is, the lab 
oratories were to be attached to the field hospitals, 
and we were to do laboratory tests--water analysis, 
blood counts, tb, gonorrhea, and that sort of thing. 

So we were sent to the Army Medical School in 
Washington for a six weeks course. Then we were sent 
overseas. And I and another fellow in that group were 
assigned to the Thirty-First Division and went over with 
that division. But when we arrived our laboratory hadn't 
yet appeared, so we instead went to the French resort 
town of v ichy, which was the headquarters of the medical 



26 



Lewis: corps of the United States Army. There I spent the last 
months of the war. I had exnected to be living in a 
tent in the mud, but instead we were quartered in one 
of the luxury hotels at Vichy. So my military career 
was not particularly heroic. (Laughter) 

Interv: ^id it allow you to get around and see a little of 
Prance? 

Lewis: Yes, it was some months before we got home. While we 
waited we did a lot of touring. 



27 



WRITING FOR THE LITERARY MAGAZINES 

Interv: Were you continuing to write during this oeriod? 

Lewis: I did a little bit, yea. But what I chiefly did was 
to think about where I was heading. I could see that 
there was no particular future in writing juvenile 
fiction for magazines. So I decided when I got back 
to try to write for the adult magazines. So I did. 
I still wrote boys' stories and articles because that 
was my chief source of income. But I began writing 
for the adult magazines. 

I tried everything the pulps but I got very lit 
tle there. I sold a few stories to pulp magazines. I 
also tried the high paying slicks, you kiow, the 
Saturday Evening Post and Collier's. I got nowhere 
with them. Then I finally decided my best bets were 
the so-called literary magazines. During the next 
several years I managed to sell to Scribner* s. Harper's. 
and the Atlantic Monthly. New Republic, Saturday Review. 
I also sold to a number of magazines that no longer 
exist, such as the Outlook and the Independent, which 
were weeklies. 



28 



Interv: Did you sell non-fiction to them? 

Lewis: Mostly non-fiction. The New Republic and the other 
weeklies didn't take fiction at all, as I remember. 

Interv: I hadn't realized that you had started writing non- 
fiction early, and that you just continued along with 
fiction. Is that correct? 

Lewis: That's right, yes. 

Interv: You wrote for the Smart Set, too? 

Lewis: Yes. I did quite a number of stories for the Smart Set, 
and a few of what you might call essays non-fiction. 

Interv: When did you start with the Smart Set? Before the war? 

Lewis: I think probably. I'm not altogether sure. But it 
was mostly after the war. And then when Mencken and 
Nathan left the Smart Set and founded the American 
Mercury, I had a couple of articles in that. 

Interv: Did you know Mencken? 

Lewis: Only by correspondence. I had some letters from him. 

Interv: He must have been a fascinating man. 

Lewis: He was a prolific letter writer and very prompt. I once 
read that he would never let a letter go unanswered for 
more than twenty-four hours. He made a very orompt reply 
with everything. 

Interv: ^id Nathan take a less active part in the managing? 



29 



Lewis: I think so. I never had a letter from Nathan. He con 
ducted the drama sections of the magazines. 

Interv: Was Mencken very exacting as an editor? Did he require 
changes? 

Lewis: No, I don't remember any. With most magazines, in those 
days, the only way you could find out whether your man 
uscript had been changed was to read it after it was 
published. Some editors made a lot of changes. Others 
just let it go as was. 

Interv: The Smart Set represents to me a kind of unique nub- 
lishing venture. Wasn't this quite a triumph for a 
young Westerner? 

Lewis: No. As a matter of fact, the Smart Set didn't have very 
high literary standards. It was a sophisticated magazine. 
They liked a certain type of fiction. They had some 
established writers. But they didn't have as high a 
standard as some lesser known magazines. The New Republic, 
for instance, in those days you had to be a pretty good 
writer to get in there. And of course Scribner *s and 
Harper's and the Atlantic were the so-called literary 
magazines. 

Interv: Did you feel your being a Westerner affected their views 
of your contributions? 



30 



Lewis: I don't think it made any great difference. Of course, 
I think the Western writer is under a handicap because 
most of the magazine editors and moat of the book pub 
lishers are New Yorkers. It used to seem to us that 
they'd much rather print a collection of short stories 
from, say, the New Yorker magazine than take a chance 
on a book on the West. They knew the local field but they 
didn't always know the rest of the country. 

Interv: They must be beginning to more now. 

Lewis: Oh yes. Almost every publisher keeps in touch with the 
rest of the market. 

Interv: We came across a story and an article of yours in the 

Overland Monthly. Did you write much for that magazine? 

Lewis: By the time I came along the Overland Monthly was well 
past its prime. I think I did what most writers did, I 
would send to Overland material that I couldn't sell any 
place else. (Laughter) 

Interv: I read a story of yours that I liked in the Overland, 
It must have been up to previous standards. Something 
called, "Not Up to Specifications." 

Lewis: Yes, I remember that. It was about newspaper work, 
wasn't it? 

Interv: No. "Little Antone" was a newspaper story. 



31 



Lewis: That's right, yes. 

Interv: "Vigil of Little Antone." That was in McBride's. 

Lewis: Yes. That, of course, is a long forgotten magazine. 

Interv: That must have been fairly high paying. Was it? 

Lewis: I don't remember, but I don't think so. They might have 

paid me $50.00. 
Interv: Looking over those issues of the Overland, they seemed to 

have interesting material still at that time though. Did 

you know any of the people on it then? 
Lewis: I think I knew a Virginia Lee, some such name. I think she 

was the Overland editor in the final phase. I believe she 

was a poet of some local renown. 
Interv: Did you ever try poetry? 
Lewis: No, that's one thing I never tried. I used to read a lot 

of poetry. I knew too much about what good ooetry is to 

try to write any myself. 
Interv: In this early post-war period, did you know any other 

writers in the area then? By then were you looked up by 

them or did you look them up? 

Lewis: Not very much. Looking back on it I must have been some 
thing of a lone wolf. I did have a couple of newspaper 

friends. One of them was Edgar Waite, who was a close 



Lewis: friend for many years. As a matter of fact we col 
laborated he was then working on the Chronicle as a 
reporter on a number of articles in the Sunday Chron 
icle. But I don't remember any others. Later I knew 
a number of the local writers. 



33 



EUROPE AND NORTH AFRICA 



Interv: Then you headed for Europe again. 

Lewis: Yes. I'd been planning that for some time and finally 
gathered enough money to go. I planned to stay as long 
as I could as long as I could support myself. I re 
member I landed in Ireland and from there went to Scot 
land and England and then France and down into North 
Africa, Algeria, Tunis... 

Interv: How did you happen to go to North Africa then? 

Lewis: I was looking for something to write about. I got my 
mail at the Thomas Cook and Company office in Paris. 
Whenever a manuscript was accepted I'd have the check 
sent me there. I was gone about three months on this 
North Africa trip. I planned thennext I wanted to go 
to Greece, the Middle East, Turkey and so on. I was 
looking forward to that trip, but I was running low on 
money. So I hurried back to Paris to see what luck I'd 
had. It wasn't very good. When I figured it out I found 
I had just enough money to buy a third class railroad 



Lewis: ticket to Le Havre and a steerage ticket to New York on 
a Gunard liner. So I hightailed it for home. I think 
I had four dollars, or the equivalent of four dollars, 
when I landed in New York. 

On the way over I wrote an article on what it was 
like to travel steerage on a luxury liner. I remember 
the morning after I landed I went to see an editor of 
the Outlook, which had accepted several of my travel 
articles. 

Interv: In New York? 

Lewis: In New York. I told him I'd like, if possible, a r>rornt>t 
decision on whether they wanted the article because if 
not, I would try somebody else. He told me he would take 
it home with him that night and read it, and if I would 
come around at nine the next morning he would tell me 
the decision, V.'hen I got there promptly at nine o'clock 
he had a check for $75.00 waiting for me. 

In the meantime when I left Paris I asked Thomas 
Cook to forward anything that came for me back to the 
New York office. I waited a few days until the mail 
would return from Paris. When it arrived I found enough 
checks so that I could have stayed over and made my trip 
to Athens and the Middle East. I remember spending the 



35 



Lewis: day trying to decide whether to go back or to come out 
here. I finally decided to come home, and I've always 
regretted it. I made the wrong decision. I could just 
aa well have spent another six months or so knocking 
around Europe. 

Interv: Were you able to travel and see and write all at the 
same time? 

Lewis: What I used to do was to visit a number of places and 

gather material. Then I'd settle down for a week or so. 
I knew a little quiet town on the Riviera called Hyeres 
the place where Stevenson used to stay. I spent a month 
there a very happy month catching up on writing. 

Interv: So you really didn't write as you went? 

Lewis: Not very much, mostly just taking notes. 

Interv: The articles, then, on your return--we noticed in the 
bibliographies were both on your travels and also on 
the American scene. L*id you feel that this trip had 
given you a new insight into what you saw in this country? 

Lewis: If so, I wasn't aware of it. 




Oscar Lewis being interviewed, June 30, 1965 




Photographs by Catherine Harroun 
Reproduction rights reserved 



36 



THE BOOK CLUB OF CALIFORNIA 



Lewis: When I got back, about that time, my connection with 
the Book Club had begun. In fact it had begun before 
I went to Europe. 

Interv: Oh, did it? 

Lewis: Oh yes. It was in 1921 that I first went to work for 

the Book Club. My beginning salary was $75.00 a month. 
But the duties were very light. The office was open from 
two to four, afternoons, five days a week. It gave me a 
nice office to work in. So I snapped up the job. 

Interv: How did it happen to be offered to you? 

Lewis: I was the second paid secretary. The first secretary was 
Bertha Pope whom I knew in Berkeley. She's now Bertha 
Damon. She still lives there. She's written two amusing 
books, one is called Grandma Called it Carnal, about her 
New England grandmother. The other is a book on gardens 
called, A Sense of Humus. She's a very clever woman. 
Bertha was a friend of Albert Bender's, and it was through 
Albert that she took this job. She held it only for about 



37 



Lewis: a year and then she quit. Then I took over temporarily, 
and stayed on until I made this trip to Europe. When I 
left it was with the understanding that I could have the 
job back if I wanted it when I returned. 

Interv: Was Clarkson Crane ever one of the interim people? Was 
he ever secretary? 

Lewis: That's right, yes. Clarkson was an old friend of mine. 
I knew him in Berkeley. He still lives in Berkeley, or 
perhaps it's El Cerrito. 

Interv: He is a writer, is he not? 

Lewis: Clarkson wrote several good novels. Then one day he de 
cided he'd said all he wanted to say and so he's written 
very little since. I understand he has some property, 
enough to give him an adequate income. He lives com 
fortably and enjoys life. I think that was a sensible 
thing to do. A lot of writers once they start don't 
know when to stop. Their reputations would have been bet 
ter if they had stopped sooner. Mark Twain is a fine 
example of that. His last ten years or so most of his 
work was almost unreadable. 

Interv: Yes. Was he kept at it by financial... 

Lewis: Oh, by no means. He was very prosperous in his last 

years. But he was a writer and he just continued to write, 



38 



Interv: Who was the other interim secretary? You said there 
were two. 

Lewis: Yes, her name was Maude Fellows. She was a friend of 

Bertha Pope's. She taught Latin at an East Bay school, 
Miss Ransom's, I think it is called. She taught also at 
a local school up on Jackson Street, another girls' 
school, a private school. 

Interv: Then she gave way to you when you returned? 

Lewis: That's right. I think she just took it during the 
vacation periods in her schools. 

Interv: Your experiences with the Book Club went back almost to 

its beginning. No, I see, 1912 is when it was established. 

Lewis: That's right. My experience began about a year after the 
directors decided to formalize it. Up to then it had 
been run entirely by volunteer help. It got to be some 
thing of a burden to them, so they decided to open an 
office and hire a paid secretary. 

Interv: Where was the office? 

Lewis: It was at 110 Sutter Street in the old French Bank 
Building, opposite the 111 Sutter Street Building. 

Interv: What was there to do? 

Lewis: **y the time I took over there were perhaps one hundred 
fifty members. It was a publishing club. We got out 



39 



Lewis: about two books a year. My job was to see the publica 
tions through the press, work with the printer, read the 
proofs, that sort of thing. When the book was published, 
to send out the announcements, get the orders, wrap up 
the books, and mail them. Anything that needed to be 
done I did. 

Interv: Did you use the office, then, for your writing also? 

Lewis: That's right, yes. 

Interv: Did you have to answer the phone when it rang, in or 
out of hours? 

Lewis: For a while I didn't. I would just ignore it. Once in 
a while somebody would say, "I called this morning," and 
I'd say, "The Book Club is only open from two to four." 
I couldn't very well tell them that I heard them ringing 
and refused to answer. (Laughter) 

Interv: We have lots of questions about the Book Club. I don't 
know how much you know about the background of the Book 
Club, the time before you started with it. 

Lewis: I told what I know to David Magee when he wrote a history 
of the Club several years ago. 

Interv: You said you became secretary first in 1921. We came 
across a list of charter members of the Club, most of 
whom must have been still around in 1921. Some of them 



40 



Interv: we know of and some are unknown to us. Could I run 
down the list? 

Lewis: Yes, I may be able to identify some of them. 

Interv: They are given alphabetically. Lloyd Ackermann. 

Lewis: He was a well-known attorney in town. 

Interv: Was he particularly interested in the Club? 

Lewis: I don't think ao, no. 

Interv: It's interesting to find out who was interested in fine 
books. 

Lewis: That's right. Of course, a lot of the members probably 
joined because they were asked by Albert Bender or 
Alfred Sutro or W.R.K. Young. They were trying to get 
the Club organized and they asked their friends to .join. 

Interv: I'll list the charter members and you interrupt if you 

can tell me anything about them. L.B. Archer, John D. Barry. 

Lewis: I didn't realize Barry was a charter member of the Club, 
He was a journalist who had a column on the old Bulletin 
under Fremont Older. He lived in Sauaalito in a little 
rustic hotel over there overlooking the bay. 

Interv: That was a rather bohemian way of living in that time. 

Lewis: Well Barry wasn't a bohemian by any means. He was rather 
a staid chap. He used to hike on Mt. Tamalpais a lot. 
I've forgotten what he wrote about but I think it was a 



41 



Lewis: literary rather than a political column. Some of his 
columns were reprinted in a book that, I think, Paul 
Elder brought out sometime in the 1920' s. I seem to 
recall that. 

Interv: When did you know him? Was it during the '20's? 

Lewis: Yes. I think it was before I got associated with the 
Book Club. It was right after World War I, nrobably 
in 1919. 

Interv: Did you meet him through your other newsnaner friends? 

Lewis: Probably. 

Interv: James D. Blake. 

Lewis: He was originally a book dealer and I think a partner of 
Jack Newbegin. Then he v/as the representative of Harder 
and Brothers, publishers, here on the Coast for a long time. 

Interv: Eugene J. Bates, H.B. Blatchley, H.U. Brandenstein. 

Lewis: Brandenstein was an attorney, a brother of M.J. Brander.stein. 
the family now call themselves Bransten--who founded the 
M.J.B. coffee company. He was a local attorney, quite a 
prominent man. 

Interv: Milton -A. Bremer. 

Lewis: He was, I think, a cousin of Albert Bender and a brother 
of Ann Bremer, Albert's cousin, who was an artist. I 
believe he was in the insurance business bx:t IV. not s\:re. 



42 



Interv: Edmund D. Brooks of Minneapolis, A. A. Brown. 

Lewis: A. A. Brown was president of the C and H Sugar Company. 
Quite a group of C and H people were in the early Club. 
William R.K. Young, who was one of the early presidents, 
was an official of the company. 

Interv: Donald Y. Campbell, Warren D. Clark, Miss L. Averill 
Cole of Boston. 

Lewis: Miss Cole was, as I remember, a quite celebrated book 
binder. I suppose she got into the Club because of 
W.R.K. Young's wife, Belle McMurtry who was also a very 
able book-binder. 

Interv: Robert I. Cowan. 

Lewis: He was a bibliographer, the author of the Club's first book. 

Interv: What sort of person was he? 

Lewis: He was physically quite a small man. He was an old man 
when I knew him grey-haired. He was not at all an ag 
gressive sort of person. He had a book shop, originally, 
which he operated out of his home. He was one of the 
town's first dealers in Calif orniana. Cowan lived on 
Treat Avenue in the Mission district. He was a close 
friend of John Henry Nash. I used to meet him at Hash's 
office every once in a while. He later became librarian 
for William Andrews Clark, in Los Angeles. His son, 



43 



Lewis: Robert Cowan, Jr., still lives there. 

Interv: Hasn't he done some writJng too? 

Lewis: The son? I believe so. 

Interv: Alfred Ehrman. 

Lewis: He was a wealthy San Franciscan but I don't know any 
thing in particular about him. 

Interv: Alfred Esberg, H. Alfred Fowler of Kansas City, Dr. John 
Gallagher, Dr. John Gallwey. 

Lewis: Gallwey was a prominent local physician. He lived on 
Sacramento at about Hyde or Leavenworth Street. You 
probably recall his home. It's set back from the street 
and surrounded by gardens, which are probably the only 
ones in that neighborhood. It's a couple of blocks 
toward downtown from Polk Street. He was a well kncwn 
doctor. I think he lived there until ten or fifteen 
years ago. 

Interv: Alexander Goldstein, Morgan Gunst. 

Lewis: Morgan Gunst was president of the Book Club in later 
years. 

Interv: I know later he did have a very considerable interest in 
books and was a collector. Was he earlier? Or did the 
Book Club help form his interest in it? 

Lewis: I think it may be that the Book Club fostered his interest 



44 



Lewis: in book collecting. He later became a celebrated col 
lector of French bindings. And I think he gave his col 
lection to Stanford when he died. 

Interv: Miss Alice Hager, Mrs. Phoebe Hearst. 

Lewis: You know as much as I do about Mrs. Hearst. 

Interv: How did she happen to be a member? 

Lewis: Somebody probably asked her. 

Interv: Miss Babette Heller, John Howell. 

Lewis: He, of course, was a book dealer. 

Interv: Did you know him? 

Lewis: Oh yes, quite well. 

Interv: He was a formative figure in San Francisco life, wasn't he? 

Lewis: He started by working for another local book dealer, 

A.M. Robinson. Robinson's shop was on Union Square on 
Stockton Street, on the corner of Maiden Lane and 
Stockton Street. Then Howell opened his own shop. He 
once wrote his reminiscences, some of which were pub 
lished in the Book Club Quarterly. These have recently 
been republished in a Book Club anthology called Second 
Reading. 

Interv: Did Howell have any particular relationship with writers 
in San Francisco, or more with printers? 

Lewis: He published local writers occasionally. For instance, 



45 



Lewis: he published the extension of William Heath Davis 1 

Sixty Years in California. He called it Seventy- Five 
Years in California. 

Interv: William Heath Davis was no longer an up-and-coming 
writer at that time. (Laughter) 

Lewis: No, evidently not. But that Howell edition of his 
book has become quite scarce. It's a very valuable 
edition. It's beautifully illustrated with documents 
Howell had in his own shop. Of course, Howell 's snec- 
ialty was the Bible. He collected Bibles and dealt in 
different editions of the Bible and different translations, 

Interv: Miss Pauline Jacobson. Was she a newspaperwoman? 

Lewis: That's right, yes. I think she was another member of 
the staff of the Bulletin under Fremont Older. 

Interv: Miss Evelyn Levy, Miss Florence Lundborg. 

Lewis: She was a well known artist, a friend of Ann Bremer. 

Interv: Laurens Maynard, Mrs. Laurens Maynard, Miss Belle McMurtry, 

Lewis: Yes. Belle McMurtry was a bookbinder and wife of W.R.K. 
Young. 

Interv: A.F. Morrison, Fred Myrtle, Miss Josephine Neeley, John 
Newbegin. Did you know him very well? What sort of 
man was he? 

Lewis: Oh yes, I knew him well. He was a hearty, back-slat>ninp, 



46 



Lewis: very approachable sort of fellow. And he was a very 
good book dealer. His was one of the best shops in 
town. Physically he was a rather tall, spare individual. 

Interv: D.C. Norcross, Edward P. O'Day. He must have been a 
very amusing chap. 

Lewis: Yes, he was a very well read fellow. He could quote 

practically anything in English literature. He was also 
a classical scholar. He loved to use Latin phrases in 
his writing. He was an able writer. 

Interv: What did he write in those days? 

Lewis: For years, as you may know, he edited The Recorder, a 
local legal paper. 

Interv: Had he been with The Recorder early, in the '20s? 

Lewis: I'm not sure but I rather think he was. He did a let 
of writing for John Nash introductions to books that 
Nash published and that sort of thing. He was quite 
active in the Family Club. I believe he used to write 
skits and one act plays that the Club produced. He was 
a rather slightly built fellow. I remember he had sort 
of red hair or sandy-colored hair. His sister, Nell 
O'Day, was the long-time librarian of the Nash Library. 

Interv: Ricardo J. Orozco, Robert C. Owens, James Walter Scott, 
Grant H. Smith, Will Sparks, Alfred Sutro. 



47 



Lewis: Sutro later became president of the Club and remained 
so for many years as long as he lived, in fact. He 
was, of course, a very well known attorney--the head 
of Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro. 

Interv: How did he happen to be so much interested in books? 

Lewis: He had a good collection. He was very much interested 
in books. I think that collection is still intact. I 
don't remember its ever being sold. 

Interv: Was he a fairly learned man? 

Lewis: Yes. He amused himself in his later years by writing 

nonsense jingles for his grandchildren. I know he pub 
lished some of them. In fact I have a couple he gave me. 

Interv: But was his book-collecting rather more serious than that? 

Lewis: Oh yes. 

Interv: What field did he collect in? 

Lewis: I think it was English literature. He was a close friend 
of A. Edward Newton, who wrote a great deal about book 
collecting, and they used to write back and forth. 

Interv: Oscar Sutro. 

Lewis: He was Alfred's brother. Although he too was a collector, 
I don't think he was as ardent a collector as Alfred. 

Interv: Dr. Edward Robeson Taylor. 

Lewis: He was the father of the Taylor brothers who had the 

print shop. Of course, he was also a physician, quite a 



48 



Lewis: well known poet, and a politician. He was one of the 
San Francisco mayors around the turn of the century. 
He published several volumes of poetry. I think he was 
also an attorney. He was also a printer, I think. In 
the beginning I believe he was associated with the 
printing firm. 

Interv: For heaven's sake! He really was a versatile man. 

Lewis: He was indeed. 

Interv: What sort of looking man was he? 

Lewis: I only saw him once or twice. And my memory of him is 
quite hazy. I remember his two sons quite well. 

Interv: Do you know E.H. Tordhoff of Berkeley? Issac 0. Upham? 

Lewis: I think Upham operated a stationery store in San Francisco, 

Interv: Wallace W. Wachob, Edgar Walter. 

Lewis: Walter was a sculptor and belonged to the family of D.N. 
and E. Walter, you know, wholesale carpets and such. 
But he was quite a well known sculptor. He did a plaque 
that was used for the Book Club. That's how I happen to 
remember him. It was a bronze plaque given honorary and 
life members. It was later made into a little design that 
could be impressed on the membership certificates. 

Interv: John I. Walter, was that his brother? 

Lewis: Yes, that was his brother. His widow, Florence 'Valuer, 



49 



Lewis: became president of the Book Club. She lives out at 
the end of Hyde Street. 

Interv: Was her husband especially interested in books? Or was 
he one of the more casual ones? 

Lewis: I think he was one of the people who bought the books 
as they came out and paid his dues, and supported the 
Club. 

Interv: Miss Marian Walter. 

Lewis: I'm not sure of her identity. 

Interv: Finally, on the list is W.R.K. Young, whom you've al 
ready mentioned. 



Albert Bender 



Interv: To go back to Albert Bender, was he the one person most 
responsible for the Book Club or where did he stand in 
relation to it? 

Lewis: He wasn't the one person responsible for it. But later 
on, after it was established, he was the one who was 
most consistently interested in it. Albert really kent 
it going during the doldrums, up until they got a 
permanent office and hired a permanent secretary. At 



50 



Lewis: least that's what I heard. And then as long as he lived 
he remained chairman of the publication committee. He 
was the one who arranged for lectures often because he 
knew the celebrities who came to town. He'd schedule a 
talk before the Club; partly for the good of the Club, 
and partly to get a fee for his friends. (Laughter) 
Albert did that also with the publications. In some 
instances like early George Sterling items and Ina 
Coolbrith and Emma Prances Dawson. These were writers 
he knew could use some financial help. So a good way 
for him to do it--to save their feelings was to say, 
"Let us print your poems and we can give you a small 
honorarium." That was his diplomatic way. 

Interv: Did he ever print things that weren't worth printing? 

Lewis: (Laughter) Well, a lot of the things the Book Club 
printed in the early days were not masterpieces of 
literature. Let's put it that way. 

Interv: I think I remember some George Sterling that was worth 
printing, wasn't it? That was late in his career. 

Lewis: The first Sterling volume the Book Club published was 
Thirty-Five Sonnets, which came out in 1917. One of 
his last things was an anthology of California poets. 
Sterling was one of the editors. It came out in 1925 



51 



Lewis: and, as I remember, George Sterling died in '26. 

Interv: H e must have been an interesting man to know--a kind 
of convivial man, was he? 

Lewis: He was rather a shy, withdrawn nerson, not at all as 
sertive. People seem to have the picture of him as 
roistering around town and all. But if he got drunk 
and raised hell he did it in a gentlemanly way, you 
can be sure of that. He used to come into the Book 
Club quite often. The thing that brought him in was 
that the Club had published a number of his books. 
One was Thirty-Five Sonnets, another was The Testimony 
of the Suns. Yet another was this anthology, Continent's 
End, and still another was a play called Lilith. Every 
once in a while someone would want a copy of some par 
ticular book. So he'd come in and get it. He always 
paid cash for it, and usually he'd write an inscription. 
Then he'd ask me if I'd mail it out, sort of apolofiretic- 
ally. I was mailing out books every day, so it was no 
problem. But he was never one to impose on people. 

Interv: Who was Emma Prances Dawson? 

Lewis: She was a writer who bad some reputation way back in the 
'90s. She was in the same group with Ambrose Bierce and 
she may have even been in the Bret Harte era. The reason 



52 



Lewis: the Club printed her book, A Gracious Visitation, was 
that Albert Bender somehow learned that she was still 
living. Everybody thought that she had died long be 
fore. This was in 1921. Albert learned that she was 
lining at Palo Alto in a tiny house and that she was 
very poor. And, as I said before, this was one of the 
instances where Albert had the Club publish a book to 
do a favor for the author. I remember the Club mailed 
her, when the book was finished, a check for $100. 
Not long thereafter she was found dead in her cabin. 
The coroner's jury said death was due to malnutrition, 
a polite word for starvation. The Club's check was 
found among her effects. She had never cashed it, 
Sort of a tragic happening. 

Interv: Yes. Well Albert Bender seems to have had a large ac 
quaintance among all sorts of people. 

Lewis: He certainly did. 

Interv: How did he manage? 

Lewis: He managed because he was practically tireless. He loved 
people and he liked to be in the middle of everything 
that was going on. If there was a party somewhere, you 
were almost sure to find Albert there. Later in the 
day, if you happened to go to another party in ?an 



Lewis: cisco or even in Oakland or Palo Alto, chances are you 
would find Albert at that one, too. He loved people 
and he loved to do favors for them. He liked the recog 
nition he got for his benefactions. That was Dart of it, 
but nox; all. It was sometimes said that Albert's 
primary interest was publicity that he gave the things 
he gave because he knew people would talk about them. 
Well, I happen to know of instances where Albert was 
generous to peoole when there was no possibility of any 
body ever knowing about it. So it wasn't because he was 
a headline hunter entirely, although he did like recog 
nition. 

Interv: It's a slow way to set recognition, to sponsor very 
young people. 

Lewis: That's true. 

Interv: How did he happen to be so much interested in books? 

Lewis: I don't know. I think: his father, in Dublin, was a 

preacher but I'm not sure of that. I don't know how 
it happened. 

Interv: He was not a particularly well-educated man, was he? 

Lewis: I don't think so. But he was a widely read man. He 
knew Irish literature. He could quote everybody from 
William Butler Yeats to the early Irish noets. And he 



54 



Lewis: liked writers and he liked artists. I guess that may 
have been because his cousin was euite a well known 
artist, Ann Bremer. 

Interv: Was that, do you think, how he met some of the artists 
at first? 

Lewis: It could be, but I doubt it. Albert never had any 

trouble meeting people. He wasn't at all shy. He could 
establish a friendship on terms of intimacy in a shorter 
time than anyone else I ever knew of. 

He'd be introduced to a perfect stranger and they'd 
talk for fifteen minutes and you'd find them pounding 
each other on the back and using first names with each 
other. You knew Albert, didn't you? You must have 
seen him at times. 

Interv: Not often, no. 

Lewis: Of course, Albert's interest was not in history. I 

think you rarely saw him at the historical organizations. 

He was often at the libraries and at the art galleries 

and that sort of thing. That's what really interested him, 

Interv: Was he tremendously wealthy or did he just give a lot of 
money away as he made it? 

Lewis: I don't think he was ever a wealthy man. When he started 
in the insurance business he had a proup of bis friends 



55 



Lewis: who were also just getting established. As they 

prospered they just sort of automatically gave him 
their business. And he, no doubt, had a very sub 
stantial income. He had a little office on California 
Street. He spent his money as it came in. He 
had a large income, but also a large outlay. He'd go 
up to Chinatown a couple of times a week and order 
things right and leftsmall gifts that he could give 
to visitors. You rarely saw Albertwhen you went to 
his office that he didn't press some gift on you be 
fore you left whether it was a necktie or, for a woman, 
some little object he picked up in Chinatown. Or 
books he'd buy books, if he liked them, by the 1ozen. 
He'd pass them out to people he thought would en.^oy then, 

Interv: What was his office like? 

Lewis: It was a small office at 311 California Street the old 
Robert Dollar Building. I remember he was on the 
third floor. He had a staff of I think three oeoule. 
Mark Altman was his chief assistant. Another was Paul 
Nathan. Albert's desk was one of the old-fashioned 
roll-tops. Albert shared his room with B.F. Brisac, 
an old friend who was also in the insurance business. 
I could never figure how Brisac ever did any business. 



56 



Lewis: Albert was always entertaining friends there, and they 
were always talking a blue streak. You'd look over 
and see Brisac leaning over his desk completely ?b- 
sorbed. Maybe he stuffed cotton in his ears, I don't 
know, v Daughter) 

Interv: Did Albert Bender have a very elaborate home or apartment? 

Lewis: He had quite a nice apartment on Post it's railed the 
Studio Building, on Post and Franklin, I think it is. 

Interv: Were the Grabhorns just a block away then? 

Lewis: No. In those days the Grabhorns--originally they were 
on Kearny Street near Market. Then they moved to Pine 
Street, and from there to Commercial Street. No, 
Albert had died by the time they moved out on Sutter Street 

Interv: I see. Did he write occasionally? 

Lewis: He wrote a great many letters. And he wrote a great 

many inscriptions in books that he gave away. But other 
than that I don't recall his ever having written anything. 

Interv: No introductions to friends' writings? 

Lewis: No. He would commission some friend to do it and some 
how arrange that the friend got a fee of #50 or $100. 
That gave him more pleasure than writing the introduc 
tions himself. 

Interv: Did you say or imply that it was he who kind of keot the 
Club going, financially, during lean years? V/as that 



57 



Interv: correct? 

Lewis: I'm not sure that his help was entirely financial. He 
kept interest alive and he kept the publication program 
going, and the lecture program. I don't know what part 
he had in financing the Club. But in the early days 
when the Club first hired a paid secretary, a group of 
the directors agreed for a certain time, I think for 
two years to pay so much a month into a special fund 
for the secretary's salary. I think by the time I came 
around that fund had been exhausted. (Laughter) But it 
permitted the Club to have a secretary when the normal 
income wouldn't have. 

Interv: Someone told us that you had mat in a lot of time and 

effort in the depression years, beyond the call of duty, 
to keep the Club going. 

Lewis: It wasn't beyond the call of duty. It was partly for my 
own protection. I remember one director's meeting in 
the early 1930 's when membership was dropping off very 
fast. In those days the membership was limited to five 
hundred. Well it dropped down to below three hundred in, 
I think, less than a year. Because of the depression, 
people had to look closely at their budgets and see where 
they could cut out. It was nice to belong to the Club, 
but that was one exoense that could be eliminated. So 



58 



Lewis: they crossed it off. At one of our director's meet 
ings, it was seriously debated whether to try to keet) 
the Club going or to olose it down and tierhans revive 
it later. I tbink it was Alfred Sutro who said it was 
mere or less up to me whether the Club survived or not. 
We decided to give it some thought and see what could 
be done to keep our remaining member s on the roll and 
to attract others. One of the proposals made at the 
next meeting was to start a little quarterlythe one 
which is now thirty years old. 

We had discussed other plans the purr>ose was to 
ask people to join the Club for what they would get out 
of it--rather than asking them to join just because it 
was a worthy institution. One r>lan was to make occasional 
gifts to the members. Out of th^t evolved the olan to 
distribute what were called keeosakes. One of a group 
of twelve folders would be sent to the members each 
month during the course of the year. That nractice of 
distributing keepsakes, which, like the quarterly, was 
also started in 1933, has developed into a very in 
teresting and quite valuable thing. So far as I know, 
the Club is the only organization that has ever done this. 
I have a complete set of keepsakes, and when I look them 



59 



Lewis i over I'm surprised that they contain so much valuable, 
interesting material. 

Interv: It must have taken a tremendous amount of organising 
and riding herd on peoole. 

Lewis: It was fairly easy during the degression because here 
were the printers they, toe, like the Club, wanted to 
stay in business but they had very little work--and the 
keepsakes usually ernsist of twelve parts, so we could 
spread them around. Each part was done by a different 
printer. The printer was glad to get any work to keep 
his shop busy. And he'd do it for some ridiculously 
small price--something like $50 for five hundred folders. 
But that was all we could afford. 

Interv: Did you then suggest initiating these publications as a 
way of pulling it out of the doldrums? 

Lewis: Yes, that was the idea. The thing to do was to try to 
make the Club offer a bargain to the members, so they'd 
feel that they couldn't afford not to belong. 

The Club didn't reach that goal but once members 
came back--it's hard to judge just what part of the re 
vival of the Club was due to the return of good times. 
But it was also partly because of the added services 
we offered. 



60 



Interv: Did everybody have to cut back on finances? Did they 
continue renting their clubroom and so forth? 

Lewis: Yes, they kept the office, but the finances were already 
at the irreducible minimum. (Laughter) You couldn't cut 
them any further salary or rent or the rest of it. 

Interv: Did you serve without salary for a while?. 

Lewis: No. #ut I was sometimes a bit behind in salary. But 
so were all the creditors of the Club. Some had to 
wait until some money came in before we could pay our 
printers and others. 

Interv: The Quarterly was always printed by the Grabhorns w^s it? 

Lewis: It was for a long time. Then for about two years, I 
think it was, Taylor and Taylor printed it. Then the 
Grabhorns took ot on again. And finally t v .is year, for 
the first time in thirty years, the Grabhorns stormed 
printing it. They decided that thirty years was enough. 
A young fellow named ArAen Philpot, who lives over in 
Marin County, is now the printer. He does quite a nice job. 

Interv: That's a hard act to follow, as they say. 

Lewis: That's right, yes, it is. 

Interv: The book publishing program, then, just continued as 
occasional during those years. 

Lewis: That's right. Far fewer books were published during the 



61 



Lewis: depression years. 

Interv: And you edited The Quarterly yourself? 

Lewis: Yes, for the first seven or eight years. To give 
variety I'd sometimes publish something under an 
assumed name. 

Interv: What were your nom de plumes in it? Do you remember them? 

Lewis: I don't remember. But I remember that in this anthology 
we recently published, one of my unsigned articles was 
used. I used occasionally, in my boys' stories, to use 
a nom de plume. I sometimes called myself E.N. Emmerick. 
Where I dug that up I'll never know. 

Interv: -Did you use that in the Book Club occasionally, too? 

Lewis: I think probably if you go through the files you might 
find it once or twice. 

Interv: Were there other members beyond that list that I went 

through who were particularly prominent in the Book Club? 

Lewis: Oh yes. One of the things Albert used to do when some 
literary celebrity came to town was to have the Club 
make him an honorary member. Men like Edwin Markham, 
Witter Bynner, and A. Edward Newton. Witter Bynner is 
still an honorary member. He lives in Santa Pe. 

Interv: Did you know him? 

Lewis: Yes, very well. In fact I've corresponded with him from 



62 



Lewis: time to time until a few months ago. He's now quite ill. 
So I haven't heard from him recently. He has always 
been a good friend of the Club. 

Interv: What sort of man is he? I have heard oeople who have 

visited him in New Mexico say that he was very charming. 

Lewis: Oh, he is. He's really a charmer. Very full of life 

and amusingfull of funny stories a real bohemian, in 
the best sense, I would say. 

Interv: He's a very fine poet, also. His reputation has con 
tinued very steady. 

Lewis: That's right. He published another book just recently. 
When he first got out of college in the early 1900 's, he 
went to New York and got a job with McClure's Magazine. 
There he met a great many people O^Henry was one of them. 
I've tried many times to get him to write his reminiscences 
of that period but I don't think he ever did. He wrote a 
book on D.H. Lawrence, called Journey With Genius. He 
sort of piloted the Lawrences around Mexico. 

Interv: How did he happen to come to San Francisco from New York, 
do you know? 

Lewis: He came out here just before World War I and gave lectures 
over at Cal. That's when I met him. 

Like many poets, he was a pacifist. He was not 



Lewis: popular with the people who wanted us to get into 
World War I. I remember he was suspect in many 
quarters because he was opposed to war. 

Interv: Then he just settled down out here after lecturing 
at Gal? 

Lewis: He never lived here very long, ^ut he used to come 

back quite often. I think it was not long after World 
War I that he went to live in Santa Pe. 

Interv: Were there other writers of that period who were in and 
out of the Book Club, too? 

Lewis: I'm trying to think. Mary Austin was an honorary member. 
I remember she once gave a talk before the Club. Robinson 
Jeffers came later in the mid-twenties. But Jeffers was 
never particularly active in the Club. He, too, was an 
honorary member. And the Club published one of his 
books of poems. 



64 



SAN FRANCISCO PRINTERS 

Interv: The printers, I suppose, you had much to do with 
constantly, didn't you? 

Lewis: Yes. I had to see the books through the press. 

Interv: Who was doing most of the printing when you were first 
with the Book Club, then? 

Lewis: John Nash was. The Grabhorns had just come to town. 

I remember one of my first assignments was to follow a 
book through the Grabhorn Press. 

Interv: Maybe a better initiation than through the *Tp*sh Press, 
for a first time. (Laughter) 

Lewis: That's right. It was, as you can imagine, a very in 
formal sort of a place. I remember the press was then 

f(.*4.*}jTJLj 

at 47 ** Street, just off Market. It was a very nar 
row building; on the ground floor was a candy store 
called the Orange Blossom. I think the Grabhorn shop 
was on the fifth floor. The kitchen where the Orange 
Blossom candy was made was on the second floor, and 
there was a combination passenger and freight elevetor, 



Lewis: Trays of Orange Blossom chocolates would be wheeled 

into the elevator, and of course the operator had his 
back to you. Later I used to tell the Grabhorns that 
I knew the reason why they didn't like chocolates; 
they'd had an overdose when they were on Kearny Street. 
(Laughter) One of them once replied, "We might not 
like chocolates but we're not opposed to orange blos 
soms." Ed and Bob had both been married twice. 
(Laughter) Ed later married for the third time. 

Interv: Were the Grabhorn brothers just working alone--was 
there anyone with them at that time? 

Lewis: Not in the first months. But as time went on there 
were a series of helpers, some of them pretty 
picturesque. 

Interv: Some of them have become quite well known in their 

own right. But I suppose there were many who haven't. 

Lewis: I think they were all talented people by the time they 
got out of the Grabhorn shop. They learned a lot about 
printing while they were there. 

Interv: Wasn't Mallette Dean one--that was later I suppose? 

Lewis: He was one of a large group of artists who did work at 
the shop. Prom the beginning the shot) attracted a 
quite talented group of artists. Valenti Angelo, for 



66 



Lewis: many years, was the staff artist. Before him were 
JpXSinel, Harold Von Schmidt, and Donald McKay. 
Angelo and McKay later went to New York to do book 
work there. Harold Von Schmidt was quite a well known 
advertising artist. 

Interv: But then this was another classification than their 
helpers around the shop. I guess I threw you off by 
switching over to Mallette Dean. 

Lewis: Some of the artists actually worked at the shop. It 
wasn't just an occasional assignment. It was full 
time work. 

Interv: I meant printing apprentices. Did they have a suc 
cession of those, too, in the shop? 

Lewis: They did later but they weren't all just ant>rentices. 
Sometimes they'd hire experienced printers to operate 
the presses and so on. Probably the best known of 
their apprentices was Gregg Anderson. Gregg later went 
back to Los Angeles and joined up with Ward Ritchie to 
form the firm of Anderson and Ritchie. He had a very 
promising career. But he was killed in World War II 
during the Normandy landing. 

Then there was John Ira Gannon, Jack Gannon, who 
was a very able and picturesque fellow. 

Interv: Whatever happened to him? 



67 



Lewis: He came from Oregon and he went back to Oregon and 

died there quite young. He used to stick around the 
shop after work and compose noems and set them up and 
make them into little books, which he illustrated with 
woodblocks he cut himself. Some of them are ouite 
charming. I have one of his books which has only 
about a dozen pages. He called it, "The Complete 
Works of John Ira Gannon." (Laughter) 

Interv: Were there other young men of Gregg Anderson's stature 
or was he outstanding? 

Lewis: There were quite a lot of them. One was Bill Roth, 
William Matson Roth, who is the man behind the re 
cent Ghirardelli Square development. He was an ap 
prentice there for several months. He and Jane 
Grabhorn and another girl, Jane Swinnerton, founded 
the Colt Press. 

Interv: That was a spirited venture. 

Lewis: Yes. 

Interv: What was that first book that you saw through the 
Grabhorn Press? Do you remember? 

Lewis: I think it was A Gracious Visitation, the Emma Prances 
Dawson book. That's the first book the Grabhorns did 
for the Club. 



68 



Interv: They have always had a reputation for operating on 
their own time scheme, shall I say. Did they then? 
Or when they were younger were they faster? (Laughter) 

Lewis: No. They did things when and the way they wanted it. 
They were always experimenting. And if they'd get a 
book two-thirds through and then decide that they 
wanted to do it another way, they would scran it all. 
They were not money conscious at all. They had no cost 
system of bookkeeping, I'm sure, or they wouldn't have 
done some of these things. But it was good business in 
the long run as it turned out. 

Interv: Did you get initiated in the Nash shop soon after? 

Lewis: Well probably, because in my first period the Club 

alternated the books between Nash and Grabhcrn, with 
an occasional Taylor and Taylor book. 

Interv: The Nash shop must have been a strong contrast to Grabhorn. 

Lewis: It was. When I first knew the shop it was a much smal 
ler place than it later became. It was just one large 
room on a corner on Sansome Street. But quite early 
within a year or two, he had expanded someone financed a 
building for him and named it the John Henry Nash 
Building. The Nash shop occupied the entire too floor. 

Interv: Who financed it, do you know? 



69 



Lewis: I don't remember. I may have known at one time. But 
it was probably one of Nash's wealthy friends. He had 
a knack for getting wealthy sponsorsWilliam Randolph 
Hearst, the Clark Brothers, William Andrews and Charles 
W. Clark, and others James Cof froth, the uromoter, 
(fight promoter). His later office, in the John Henry 
Nash Building, was divided into two parts. As you got 
off the elevator, if you turned to the left, you would 
be in the shop the composing room he never had a 
press. The press work was done elsewhere, but the type 
was set there and the design and all. Then if you 
turned to the right, you were in the library, which 
was quite elaborately fitted up. He had a large col 
lection of books on printing and many examples of the 
work of the modern and early fine book printers. It 
was very much of a contrast. On one side was the work 
room, well equipped and all, but no luxury. The lurury 
was all on the library side. 

Interv: Where did you generally find Nash himself? 

Lewis: He was nearly always at the type case or in front of 
the composing stone. That's where he worked. He al 
ways wore an immaculate blue smock. 

Interv: Did he put on a good show? That's the impression I had. 



70 



Lewis: That's it, yes. He knew what a master printer ought 

to look like, so he did all he could to look the r>arT. 
And he succeeded very well. 

Interv: How was he on schedules? Did he keen to a time schedule? 

Lewis: I think so, so far as I know. Of course he liked to do 
few books, and do them very elaborately. He thought 
nothing of taking an entire edition back to Leipzig 
to have it hand bound in vellum. He'd order oacer 
specially made and watermarked with his name at the 
Van Gelder mill in Holland. He liked to do everything 
on a grand scale. He had wealthy clients who would 
permit him to do that. So everything went well with 
him while he was riding high. But when the degression 
came on--that's the difference between Nash and Grabhorn-- 
when the depression came on Nash couldn't cut corners. 
So his inspiration dried up and presently he closed 
his shop. 

On the other hand, when the depression came, the 
Grabhorns went in for less exnensive books. They cashed 
in on the growing interest in Calif orniana. During 
the next few years they brought out two series of books 
of Western Americana. At first, people said they 
couldn't possibly sell them. It was during the worst 



71 



Lewis: of the depression years. Some of the books sold for 
as little as two dollars each. But now they bring 
many times that much. It's very hard for collectors 
to get a complete set. People used to say, "What Ed 
Grabhorn needs is a business manager." They were 
wrong. That's the last thing in the world he needs. 
In snite of his casual manner of doing business, he 
knows how to make the shop show a profit. 

Interv: What of the Westgate Press? You were involved in that, 
were you not? 

Lewis: That was an offshoot of the Grabhorn ^ress. One day 
Bob Grabhorn and I decided to fret in on the booming 
book market. That was in 1929, when limited editions, 
and practically everything else was being sna-ooed un 
immediately. So we decided to start by tmbli3hin<:r in 
book form short stories and essays by well known 
writers, just to try the plan out. I remember I wrote 
eight writers, both here and in England, ranging all 
the way from Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell to 
Lewis Mumford and John Steinbeck--people like that. 
Of the eight, six wrote back that they were delighted 
at the prospect of having their stories published. We 
had offered to pay them $250, plus ten copies of their 



72 



Lewis: book. So we had no trouble getting material to tmblish. 
Part of the plan was to. have each copy signed by the 
author. This we did by sending the sheets to the 
authors in advance, before the books were bound. After 
we had signed up our authors we announced the Westgate 
Signed Editions. We got a very encouraging response. 
Many people ordered individual titles and quite a few 
wanted the whole series. For a while we did fine, but 
we had one piece of bad luck that of starting in 1929. 

Interv: (Laughter) Did the Grabhorns print them? 

Lewis: Yes. They were all printed at the shop. 

Interv: About how many did you do? 

Lewis: We did four of the Signed Editions--books by Sherwood 
Anderson, Lewis Mumf ord , Havelock Ellis, and Virginia 
Woolf. Later a number of other books were published 
under the Westgate imprint but they were really Grabhorn 
books. Instead of using the Grabhorn imnrint as pub 
lisher, the Westgate name was used. 

Interv: I see. I kind of got out of order on this. I meant 
to go on and ask you about more Book Club nrinters. 
Taylor and Taylor was next on our list. 

Lewis: The Taylor brothers were primarily general orinters. 
They didn't, by any means, specialize in book work. 



73 



Lewis: The firm was run by the two sons of Edward Robeson 

Taylor. One of them, it was Henry, had gone back to 
study printing under D.B. Updike at Harvard. Updike 
was a Boston printer who had a great deal to do with 
raising the standards of American printing, especially 
book printing. 

The Taylors were a very able pair. They did ex 
cellent work. It was ouite different from either ^Tqsh 
or Grabhorn. 

Interv: This was long after Nash had parted from them. 

Lewis: Yes. The firm was originally Taylor, Nash and Taylor. 
Then Nash went into business by himself. Ed was the 
older brother and Henry the younger. They were both, 
you might say, scholarly printers, which neither Nash 
nor Grabhorn were. They had studied the theory of 
printing, they knew the history of printing, and all 
that. They did some excellent books for the Club and 
for others. Of course, as I said, their bread and but 
ter work was commercial printing for big corporations. 
They did a lot of work for Standard Oil. Then only a 
year or two ago, after both Taylors had died and the 
firm was being run by Jim Elliot, Bob Washbish, and some 
others, the shop was filled with the eruinrnent to do 



74 



Lewis: commercial printing on a large scale, great expensive 

presses and all that. Then Standard Oil decided to use 
a different method of printing, which their shop 
couldn't handle. After losing that big account, the 
owners threw up the sponge and retired. So Taylor and 
Taylor is no longer in existence. 

Interv: Were all of these three printers that you've discussed 
fairly easy to work with? I'm sure the Grabhorns were. 
Was Nash reasonably easy? 

Lewis: One reason it was easy to work with the printers was 
that one of the Club's rules was to impose as few re 
strictions as possible. We would say, "Here's the 
manuscript, make as good a book as you can out of it." 
The printers liked that because they didn't often et 
such commissions. So there was rarely any argument be 
cause the Club didn't ask them to do the work in any 
special way. 

Interv: Did you ever use Johnck and Seeger? 

Lewis: Yes. In the '30s and early '40s they did a number of 

books for the Club. John Johnck has since died. Harold 
Seeger is still in. the printing business. I don't re 
member anything in particular that I could tell you 
about their shop. 



75 



Interv: They weren't at it long enough I suppose to achieve 
the stature of... 

Lewis: With them as with practically all the other shons, 

they were supported by the general run of commercial 
printing. They all welcomed an opportunity to do an 
occasional book. It was a change of pace. But they 
were not primarily book printers. 

Interv: Did they do their own press work? 

Lewis: I think so. My memory is yes. I think all printers 
did except Nash. 

Interv: Who did Nash have to do his press work? 

Lewis: I believe it was a firm called the Trade Pressroom, 

somewhere on Sansome Street. It may have been in the 
same building as Nash, but I '20 not sure. 

Interv: Did you know Thomas C. Russell? 

Lewis: No, I never knew him. But he operated a press in the 
basement of his house in the Richmond District. He 
edited the books he reprinted mostly rare Californians 
I used to see them in the second-hand book stores all 
the time, at very low prices. I thought they'd last 
forever at two or three dollars each, but they've now 
become hard to get hold of and quite expensive. So 
when I have to look at one I have to go to one of the 



76 



Lewis: libraries and look at it there. 

Interv: Were there any other printers that the Book ^lub 

dealt with regularly? 
Lewis: There was the Windsor Press, which was run by two 

young Australians, the Johnson brothers. They had a 

shop on Bush. 
Interv: We knew them. 

i 

Lewis: One of them I still see occasionally. Their names 

were James and Cecil. I could never tell them apart. 
They stayed in business quite a while and did quite a 
lot of nice work. 

Interv: Did you ever have any so-called private Dresses do any 
work any non-commercial printers? 

Lewis: They did some of the keepsakes. We used to pass them 

around to different printers. There was Wilder Bent ley, 
over in Berkeley, I suppose you'd call his a private -cress, 

Interv: Was it? I don't know anjrbhing about him. '-Vas he some 
thing else by vocation? 

Lewis: He ran this press, I don't think he made a living at it. 
He may have taught. He may have taught a class in 
printing at the University Extension. I don't know. 
He later went back to Pittsburgh, to the Laboratory 
Press. Did you know Porter Garnett? He came from out 



77 



Lewis: here, then he went back and established the Laboratory 
Press at the University of Pittsburgh. Be.it ley joined 
him there. 

Wilder was a member of a rather wealthy San 
Francisco family. I don't think he had to make a 
living at his Berkeley shop. He was more fortunate 
than most printers. (Laughter) 

Interv: We meant to ask you about the Colt Press, in relation 
to the Westgate Press. But I see now that they had no 
direct relationship. 

Lewis: No. It came along after the Westsrate "Press. The rrime 
mover in it was Jane Grabhorn, Bob's wife. 

Interv: When did she come into active work in Grabhorn 's 
organization? 

Lewis: She came in because one of the young apprentices at the 
shop was her brother Bill Bissell, and it was through 
Bill, I assume, that she and Bob met. Then after they 
were married, she came down to the press and learned 
typesetting and binding. She showed up every day and 
still does. She and Bill Roth and Jane Swinnerton 
founded this Colt Press. They were looking for some 
thing to publish and I , in a weak moment, agreed to 
write them something about Lola Montez. I did a little 



78 



Lewis: book called Lola Montez in California. That was their 

first book. 

Interv: It apparently gave them a good start. 
Lewis: I think they kept on in spite of that book rather 

than because of it. (Laughter) 
Interv: They began that just as the depression was beginning 

to mitigate, didn't they? 
Lewis: I think so. I forget the date. 
Interv: 1938, I think. 

Lewis: Yes, the depression was pretty well over by then. 
Interv: I think we've gone through the whole list of orinters 

here. I'm sure there are many more things to be 

said about them. 
Lewis: Well maybe later if you find any bald soots that you 

think I can grow some hair on, let me know about it. 
Interv: (Laughter) We won't exhaust you any further today. 



79 



WRITER AND ARTIST NEIGHBORS 



Interv: You lived on Russian Hill when you first moved to 
San Francisco, didn't you? 

Lewis: That's right. On the Taylor Street hill. There 
were some interesting people living there then. 

Interv: Such as? 

Lewis: Well, one was Stella Benson, an English girl and a 
very clever writer. She had lived in China before 
coming here. She and her husband, whose name was 
Shamus I forget his last name rented one of the 
little cottages on west slope of Russian Hill. They 
used to give very entertaining narties. She was in 
frail health while she was here and I believe she 
died soon after they returned to England. 

Interv: It was before you were living in San Francisco, wasn't 
it, that Stella Benson was here? 

Lewis: I believe so. I was probably still living in Berkeley 
then. 

Interv: When did you move to the city permanently, then? 



80 



Lewis: It was 1925, when I got married. I had been living 
in Berkeley, mostly at home with my mother, until 
that time. 

Interv: What was your wife's maiden name? 

Lewis: Betty Mooney. She was--and still is an interior 

decorator. She had a relative, a cousin, who had zr\ 
office in the French Bank Building, on the same floor 
with the Book Club. That's how we met. We celebrated 
our fortieth wedding anniversary a few months ago. 

Interv: Did you move then to the Taylor Street house? 

Lewis: That's right, yes, 1644 Taylor. It's one of those 
pseudo-Indian, Taos , New Mexico type of apartment 
houses. (Laughter) There was a time when they built 
a lot of them all over town--there's one down at the 
end of this street. 

Interv: The neighbors that you had on Taylor Street sound like 
you just happened to move into the most interesting 
block in the city. 

Lewis: Well it was purely by accident. There hardened to be 
an apartment vacant at a price we could afford to pay. 
That was all there was to it. 

Interv: Would you mention the neighbors? 

Lewis: Maynard Dixon lived across the street. He was then 



81 



Lewis: married to Dorothea Lange, the t>hotograr>her. I 

haven't heard of her in a long time. Does she still 
live in the neighborhood? 

Interv: No. She's married to a nrofessor at the University of 
California, who's just retired, Professor "aul Taylor. 

Lewis: Then diagonally across Taylor Street from us, in 
a house still standing, lived Colonel Wood, Charles 
Erskine Scott Wood, and Sara Bard Field. The house is 
on the corner of Broadway and Taylor, on the northwest 
corner. There's a high stone fence about the property 
and the house is set back among trees. Sara Field now 
lives in Berkeley. Her daughter is also married to a 
college professor, James Caldwell. Colonel Wood was 
this girl's step-father. 

Interv: That was one of the rather scandalous but respectable 
arrangements, wasn't it? 

Lewis: I suppose so. Everybody accepted it. Colonel Wood 
was a picturesque old chap. 

Interv: Was he writing? Was that in the Heavenly Discourse 
period? 

Lewis: I think he had already written it. He still was writin/?, 
I know he had poems in the left wing publications, The 
Masses and others. He was a socialist, of course. 



82 



Interv: Was Sara Bard Field writing at the same time? 

Lewis: Yes. 

Interv: You had a creative, busy group there. 

Lewis: There was a man in our apartment, Miner Chipman, who 
was very busily writing. He was an advertising man, 
but he wanted to write novels. I remember we used to 
discuss writing problems. He pretended to be a lit 
tle irritated because he lived on the top floor and 
had a little writing room he had built there with a 
beautiful view. Once he said to me, "Look here, 
you're down in that little first story apartment and 
you get your stuff published. I have a view of the 
whole city and the editors won't take my manuscripts." 

Interv: (Laughter) Were you writing at home at that time or 
mostly at the Book Club? 

Lewis: I was writing mostly at the Book Club. But I would 
sometimes work at home in the mornings and sometimes 
on Saturday. We had an attractive roof garden on the 
apartment and I'd sometimes go up there on sunny days 
and get some air and sunshine. 

Interv: Was Maynard Dixon painting there then? Did he have a 
studio in his home then? 

Lewis: No. I think he had a studio in the Montgomery block. 



83 



Interv: And Dorothea Lange was actively photographing was she? 
Lewis: I think so, that's my recollection. Maynard Dixon did 

a lot of magazine illustrations at that time, for the 

old Sunset magazine and other Western magazines. 
Interv: What sort of man was he? 
Lewis: He was sort of like the movie version of a cowpuncher. 

I think, in his early days, he had worked as a cowoby. 

I know that is what he specialized in in his magazine 

illustrations. 

Interv: Was Colonel Wood a good conversationalist? 
Lewis: Oh yes, he liked to talk. 
Interv: Was he a tale-spinner? Was he that sort of nerson? 

Or do I just think so? I think of him as sitting 

around telling stories about the Indian " r ars, and so 

forth. 
Lewis: He may have. But if he was like that it isn't within 

my memory. 



84 



LITERARY PEOPLE AND LIFE OF SAN FRANCISCO 



Interv: You were a member, or are perhaps still, of an or 
ganization known as PEN. Was that an important 
thing to you? Or was this just something quite 
incidental? 

Lewis: It was never, I don't think, important to anybody 

except maybe to Charlie Dobie and Gertrude Atherton. 
They're the ones who kept it alive. 

Interv: What was the point of it? 

Lewis: It's a national organization. This was the San Fran 
cisco chapter. It was for writers to get together and 
discuss common interests, I suppose. It was a writers' 
social club. There is another organization called the 
Authors' League of America, which looks out, supposedly, 
for the economic welfare of writers, you might say. I 
think the PEN was just a sort of social supplement. 

Interv: Did you belong to the Authors' League? 

Lewis: No, I never did. 

Interv: How did Charles Caldwell Dobie happen to be so active 
in it? 



85 



Lewis: I think he probably liked such organizations. He was 
the secretary, I remember, for a long time. Maybe 
that was just because he was good-natured. 

Interv: What sort of person was he? 

Lewis: He was a rather quiet, reserved individual, very nice 
but not an outgoing type. You couldn't picture him 
slapping anyone on the back and that sort of thing. 
He was rather formal. He took his writing very 
seriously. He was never one to talk slightingly of it, 
like so many professional people do. They say, "Oh I 
just dashed this off in a spare moment." He would 
never have said that. 

Interv: He didn't start writing until he was fairly mature did he? 

Lewis: I don't think so. He was a writer when I knew him. 
His chief work was for magazines although he did a 
number of novels. He did a book on San Francisco, and 
one on Chinatown. 

Interv: He's pretty much forgotten now, I think. 

Lewis: I think so. I don't think any of his books is still 
in print. 

Interv: I recently happened across Blood Red Dawn and read it. 

It was a little hard going. And it was his first novel. 

Lewis: Yes. One was called Next of Kin. I think. 



86 



Interv: Was that good? I have never read that. 

Lewis: I don't think I ever read it either. I used to read 
his stories in the more literary magazines like 
Harper's or Scribner's. He used to sell stories to them. 

Interv: On western subjects? 

Lewis: I don't remember. They were probably laid in San 

Francisco. But what the themes were I've forgotten. 

Interv: The reason I was asking what sort of person he was was 
that I was surprised that he was so sociable as to con 
tinue as secretary of the club for that many years. 

Lewis: I think he liked these gatherings. 

Gertrude Atherton was really the mainspring. She 
was a strong-minded old lady and if she wanted Dobie to 
be secretary of the club she would say to him, "Charlie, 
you're secretary." (Laughter) That was it. 

Interv: Did you know Gertrude Atherton well? 

Lewis: I knew her pretty well in her last years, yes. She 

lived not very far from here, down on Green near Fillmore, 

Interv: That was with her daughter, wasn't it? 

Lewis: Yes, Mrs. Russell, who died just a few months ago. She 
lived with her daughter and Mrs. Russell's son, George 
Russell. When his mother died George sold the old family 
home. It's been torn down and an apartment was put ur 
there. 



87 



Interv: When did you first meet Gertrude Atherton? 

Lewie: I guess it was in the early 1920' s, although I'm not 
sure of that. It might have been then I think I 
probably met her casually once or twice. But the 
PEN meetings were in the late 'JO* a and early '40' s. 
That's when it was most active. They'd meet maybe 
once a month at Mrs. Russell's house on Green Street. 

Interv: I see. Was it just an informal meeting or did some 
one speak? 

Lewis: No, there were never any speakers. It was sort of like 
a cocktail party, although it usually went on and on. 
Groups would gather different groups in different 
parts of the ground floor--and have a series of little 
meetings. But that haopens at all cocktail oarties. 

Interv: (Laughter) Did the organization here have most of the 
prominent writers of the city as members? 

Lewis: I think so. They had a lot of members in Berkeley. I 
remember Mrs. Julia Altrocchi used to come over from 
Berkeley. Ben Lehman also used to come in the old days. 

Interv: Was it interested in young writers? 

Lewis: I think anyone who had published a book or two was put 

on the list and got an invitation. It was very informal, 
There were no dues as I remember, and you came or not. 



88 



Interv: Gertrude Atherton in her book My San Francisco de 
scribed a dinner at Montalvo and said that you and 
Mrs. Lewis were there and a number of others. I 
think it was for a foreign dignitary. But it sounds 
as if it was a fascinating grout) and I wonder if you 
remember. 

Lewis: I have no recollection. My wife might remember. I 

would say that I wasn't there. But I've said that be 
fore on other occasions and she would say, "Of course 
you were." (Laughter) She would tell me all the cir 
cumstances. So I wouldn't swear to it, but I don't 
recollect. 

Interv: I've always been fascinated by those dinners at Montalvo. 
They sound, at least at this distance, fascinating. 

Lewis: Of course, the Senator and Gertrude were close friends. 
Dobie was too. Dobie spent a lot of time down there. 

Interv: What was Senator James Phelan like? 

Lewis: I remember that physically he was a rather small char) 
with a neat, pointed beard. I don't know much about 
him really. He was, I think, rather on the quiet side, 
but a very gracious individual, polite and all. But I 
just didn't have enough contact with him to know much 
about him. 



89 



Interv: The list of guests at this dinner that Gertrude 
Atherton described included Templeton Crocker. 
You must have bumped into him somewhere. 

Lewis: I think he used to come to the PEN meetings if I'm 
not mistaken. 

Interv: Was he a member of the Book Club? 

Lewis: Oh yes. 

Interv: Do you know what started his interest in books? 

Lewis: No. He was rather of an artistic temperament, though-. 
Many of these wealthy families have some member who has 
no interest in the family business, and instead he goes 
in for collecting paintings or books. He was the 
artistic member of the Crocker family. Warren Howell 
would know about him. Warren and his father sold a 
lot of books to Templeton Crocker. I think Warren in 
turn has been selling some of the Crocker books. 

Interv: Oh, I thought many of them went to the Historical Society, 

Lewis: The California books did. But a lot of the other things- 
English literature, manuscripts and such I believe John 
Howell 's shop has sold some of them. 

Interv: Was he an intelligent collector? 

Lewis: Of course if you're a wealthy man and want to form a 

library, you don't have to be particular!" intelligent. 



90 



Lewis: You can get plenty of advice from dealers and such. 
I think he more or less, like Henry Huntington, gave 
blanket orders to dealers. If something good came up 
in an auction, the dealer would probably go over the 
catalogue with Crocker and he'd say, "Buy this and this 
and that." So if you have expert advice and want to 
form a library, you don't have to have very much in 
formation. 

Interv: And the books are more valuable if you don't read them. 

Lewis: (Laughter) Oh yes. They should be in pristine condition. 

Interv: Crocker was a great party-giver, wasn't he? 

Lewis: I believe so. He had the urtper two floors in an anart- 
raent building on Russian Hill, at the end of Green 
Street. I'm pretty sure I never was at one of his nar- 
ties. I wasn't on his visiting list evidently. (Lauerhter) 

Interv: Was he active in the California Historical Society at 
all, to your knowledge? 

Lewis: I didn't know much about the Historical Society in those 
days. He was probably a life member, just as he was in 
the Book Club. But I don't think he I know he had no 
active part in the Book Club, except to be a life member, 
though he probably bought all the books. 

Interv: Another of the guests at this dinner where you may or 



91 



Interv: may not have been, was Joseph Henry Jackson, and Mrs. 

Jackson. I presume you were a friend of Joseph Henry 

Jackson. 

Lewis: Yes, I knew him well for quite a long time. 
Interv: Before he went to the Chronicle? 
Lewis: The first time was when he was book editor of the 

Argonaut, the weekly magazine. He used to come around 

to the Book Club office. I'd occasionally review a 
book for him, if it was something that happened to do 

with book collecting, something within the field of the 
Book Club. Then later, after he went to the Chronicle, 
I occasionally used to review some book of V/estern 
Americana that he didn't have time to do himself. He 
was an extremely busy fellow. He not only had a daily 
column in the Chronicle, but he also did a long article 
each Sunday. He did quite a lot of reviewing, too, for 
the Herald Tribune in New York, for their book section. 
And he brought out at least one book a year. He also 
had a weekly radio program. He was a verv prolific 
writer. 

Interv: Yes, and a careful one. 

Lewis: That's right, yes. He did some things that I could 

never do. That is, he would review the same book for 



92 



Lewis: the Sunday Chronicle, quite a long review, and then he 
would do a lengthy review for the Herald Tribune. And 
they would be quite different reviews. That always 
astonished me. (Laughter) 

Interv: He was certainly important in forming the literary 
tastes in this area, wasn't he? 

Lewis: He encouraged a lot of people to collect Western 

Americana. I don't think there's any doubt of that. 
And he certainly built up the Chronicle's book depart 
ment until it was one of the important book review sec 
tions in the country. He used to make yearly trips to 
New York to keep his contacts back there. 

Interv: Apparently he was very good at that, was he not? 

Lewis: Yes, he was. I don't think he personally solicited ad 
vertising, but he saw to it that a lot of book advertising 
came out here. It had never been done before and it 
hasn't been done since. The Chronicle and other San 
Francisco book departments don't have anything like the 
amount of advertising they had in Joe Jackson's day. 

Interv: Did he become interested in Western Americana about the 
same time that everyone else did? Or was he earlier? 

Lewis: I'm not sure about that. He was doing book reviewing in 
San Francisco. Naturally he emphasized the books of 



93 



Lewis: regional interest. Besides, he must have had a natural 
interest in Californiana because nearly all his own 
books were on some phase of the West. He did one book 
about a trip he and his wife took to Guatemala. But 
aside from that I think all of his writings were on 
the West. 

Interv: I remember his saying something to me about not being 
able to review not feeling it was oroner to review- 
books even though they were on local subjects that were 
only of limited interest or limited availability. Maybe 
this was in relation to Book Club books. He felt he 
couldn't really review them, only mention them in 
passing. 

Lewis: That could be, and that's understandable. To review a 
book in a daily newspaper that is available only to a 
very limited number of people like a Book Club book, I 
think that's rather a waste of time. Besides, it might 
have the effect of irritating people who might want the 
book but find that the distribution was restricted. I 
don't doubt that Jackson realized that. He didn't 
emphasize books in limited editions. Of course he used 
to review our Westgate Press books. They were limited 
editions but they weren't restricted to the membership 
of any club. 



94 



Interv: What size issues were they? How many did you print? 

Lewis: That varied. Our signed editions were limited -oo five 
hundred. Some of the other editions were even less 
than that. I remember my little book on Lafcadio Hearn 
was only three hundred fifty copies. And it took us 
several years to get rid of the three hundred fifty copies. 

Interv: At this famous dinner, Stewart Edward White was also a 
guest. Wasn't he a kind of precursor of a lot of this 
Western writing, for instance, Dobie's novels? His 
may have been a creative leadership. 

Lewis: It may be. I'll admit that if I ever read any Stewart 
Edward White book I've forgotten it. Although he lived 
in California, I don't think he wrote primarily about 
California. He wrote historical novels about the set 
tlement of the West and things like that, is that what 
you mean? 

Interv: There was a trilogy, I think, on California wasn't there? 

Lewis: Yes, Gold , The Gray Dawn and The Rose Dawn, I believe 
one of them was a Cold Rush novel. His novels were 
mostly serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. 

Interv: Did you meet him? 

Lewis: No, I don't think I ever met him, although he lived 
down on the Peninsula somewhere. 



Interv: We have on our outline the Roxburghe Club. Were you 
a member early? 

Lewis: I was a member fairly early. But I wasn't one of the 
originating group. 

Interv: Have you been particularly interested in it? 

Lewis: I was for a while, in the beginning. Then for a time 
I didn't go very often. But in recent years I've been 
pretty regular. The Club has had a sort of rebirth you 
might say in recent years. They usually have interesting 
meetings. The Club meets once a month, except during 
the summer months. 

Interv: When did you first belong to it? 

Lewis: I think sometime in the early '30's. We used to meet 
at restaurants or clubs in different narts of town. 

Interv: Did they have speakers then? 

Lewis: Yes. We always had someone to give a talk and usually 
there was discussion afterwards. 

Interv: What sort? Always bibliographical? 

Lewis: Always having something to do with books. Sometimes 
the speaker was a visiting writer from the East Coast 
or England. Or it might be one of the members of the 
Club itself, telling about his collection. A very 
wide range of subjects. 



96 



Interv: Can you compare it with the Book Club in its snonsor- 
ship of interest in fine printing here, aid books? 

Lewis: It bears somewhat the same relationship that we talked 
about a little earlier that of the Author's League 
and the PEN. The Roxburghe Club takes care of the 
social side of book collecting. That is, it gives 
people interested in books an opportunity to pet to 
gether at dinner once a month and talk about their 
hobby. The Book Club doesn't do that. We used to 
sponsor lectures, but we haven't done that for a 
long time. The Book Club has a party two or three 
times a year, usually when a new book cones out. 
But that's the extent of our social activity. 




At Clamper meeting, Murphy's, 1955, left to 
right: Carl Wheat, Al Shumate, Oscar Lewis, 
Edgar Jessop, Lee Stopple 



97 



CLUBS, SOCIETIES AND LIBRARIES 

Interv: Have you been a very interested member of the Bohemian 
Club? 

Lewis: Yes, I've been interested but not as actively as I'd 
like to be. When something comes up that I'd like to 
do for the Club I usually have a manuscript on hand and 
a deadline to meet. So I sometimes feel like apologizing 
for doing so little. But I'm always thinking that next 
year I'll have a few weeks free so that I can do some 
writing for them. 

Interv: Do they still have a so-called artists member classifica 
tion? 

Lewis: Yes. The Club has what are called professional members. 
They are either actors, amateur or professional, or 
artists or writers. 

Interv: And you're in that category, are you? 

Lewis: Yes, I'm a professional member. 

Interv: You have been on the California Historical Society 

Publications Committee off and on for some years, have 
you not? 



98 



Lewis: That's right, yes. 

Interv: When did you first become a member of the Society or 
that committee? 

Lewis: Not too long ago, maybe ten years, 

Interv: Have you used its collections very much? 

Lewis: I go there frequently. I don't think I've written a 
book in a long time that I haven't gone at some 
time or other to consult some book that's not avail 
able elsewhere. Besides, it's a good source of pic 
ture material for illustrating books. In fact I'm 
planning to go there shortly because I'm getting to 
gether illustrations for my current book. So I'll be 
at the Historical Society several times during the 
next couple of weeks. 

Interv: Have you any thoughts on its development in the years 
that you've been using it? 

Lewis: The publication activitythe book publishing: chase of 
the club has been a sort of step-child for a long time, 
It was rather frustrating being on the Publication Com 
mittee because the Society directors insisted that pub 
lications support themselves. When there was no money 
in the publications fund, the Society could publish no 
books. Well, it seemed to me and some other members of 



99 



Lewis: the committee that this was wrong, that one of the 
chief functions of an historical society is to raske 
available historical material. We sometimes nursed 
along manuscripts for several years, but there was 
never any money to publish them. Finally, the author 
would get tired and take the manuscript elsewhere. 

Another thing that was rather frustrating was the 
Society's policy in regard to the series of guides it 
published several years ago. Mine on San Simeon was 
the first. Then George Stewart did an excellent guide 
to the Conner Lake and high Sierra country. The third 
was done by Will Robinson on Los Angeles. The San 
Simeon book happened to come out at a very fortunate 
time. The Castle had just been opened to the oublic. 
The Society had never published a book in an edition 
of more than a thousand. San Simeon sold forty thousand 
copies the first year. George Stewart's booV: sold ten 
thousand copies within a very short time. Yet there 
was a feeling within the Society that that was not the 
sort of publishing it should do. The three guide books 
were finally turned over to the Lane Publishing Company 
at Menlo Park, which has since handled their distribution 
I think that's an odd sort of snobbishness on the part 



100 



Lewis: of the Society. They seem to be saying, "It's all 
right for us to publish books in limited editions, 
but we shouldn't bring out historical material in 
large editions for sale to the general public." 

Interv: We were speaking of the Historical Society library 
and your use of it. What libraries do you use for 
the most part? You mentioned the Mechanics. 

Lewis: Of course, the Bancroft. I haven't been over there 
on my book which is on Sutter's Port, because Sutter 
has been so much written about that the material is 
all readily available. Besides, I've been collecting 
Californiana for years and have in my own collection 
pretty much of what I needed for this current job. 
One of the things that I have to consult in libraries 
is newspapers, and the San Francisco Public Library is 
a good place for that. They have a fine collection of 
bound volumes of the local papers and weekly magazines. 
So the Public Library, for that sort of thing, is as 
good as can be found around here. 

Interv: Have you used the State Library? 

Lewis: I used to use it quite often. I still go up there oc 
casionally. It is useful to research workers primarily 
because of its newspaper index. The State Library is 



101 



Lewis: the only place where the newspapers are indexed--it 
isn't a complete index of course, but it is nearly 
complete since about 1900. Every day one of the 
staff goes through one of the oarers and mats the 
references in the file. 

Interv: You must have known Miss Caroline "'enzel. 

Lewis: Oh very well indeed, yes. 

Interv: A wonderful person to work with. 

Lewis: She was a wonderful person. Her successor, Allan 

Ottley is doing a fine job. Have you ever done any 
work with him? He's very much interested in helping 
to dig out information. 

Interv: Professor Hart suggested that you might have some 
recollections of the Bancroft Library from earlier 
years and its development, and earlier people in it. 

Lewis: As I remember, it was on an unper floor of the main 
library when I first started going there. 'low, of 
course, it's on the site of North Hall, the old brick 
building which was standing when I first came to 
Berkeley. I don't remember anything special. I thin> 
Priestly was head of the library at that time. Bolton 
had already come and gone. At least I don't remember 
ever having seen Bolton there. 



102 



Interv: I guess he then came back some time later, but not 
in that official capacity. 

Do you remember Mr. Brizee? Did he ever chase 
down things for you? 

Lewis: I remember him. Then there was- Eleanor Bancroft. 
Wasn't she there for a long time? 

Interv: Yes. She was certainly a devoted librarian, very 
helpful. 

Lewis: She was like Caroline V/enzel UTD in Sacramento. They 
both knew exactly not only what the library had, but 
where to r>ut their hands on it. Even with all the 
catalogues and such, you have to live with a library 
ten years or so before you really know your way 
around. 



103 



WRITING 



Interv: We have come way up chronologically and now we want 
to go back to the subject of your writing. You must 
have been very self-disciplined to do so much of it 
during all this period, with the Book Club and so 
many other activities. 

Lewis: Well as a matter of fact I didn't have many other 
activities. The Book Club didn't take much time. 
It was just that I had got into the habit of writing. 
I usually had some project on the way, so it was 
natural to go to the typewriter each morning and nick 
out a few hundred words. You don't have to be a 
facile writer the main thing is to be a regular 
worker, I discovered. If you do only five hundred 
words a day and you do it steadily, you will certainly 
do a book a month I mean, a book a year. (Laughter) 
But I've never felt I was doing a lot of writing, that 
is, a large volume of writing. I usually had some 
project on hand but I wasn't straining ahead to get 
it done at a certain time. I took my time. Many 



104 



Lewis: writers who have been writing fewer years than I 

have have turned out a lot more words than I have. 

Interv: Have you always written for regular r>eriods each day? 

Lewis: Usually. Like anybody else with a .job to do, I 

usually show up at about the same time each morninp. 
I'm usually at work by half past eight or nine, and 
I write until twelve-thirty or so. Those are not 
sweat shop hours. Sometimes that's all I do. Once 
in a while I work an hour in the afternoon or maybe 
an hour or so at a library, or an hour reading in 
the afternoon. I think that's the way most writers 
work. 

Interv: Did you edit a number of books before you wrote one 

all the way through, from beginning to end, of your own? 

Lewis: My editing work was mainly because of my connection 

with the Book Club and the Grabhorn Press. The story 
used to be that when the Grabhorns were printing a 
book, especially if it was some item of Western 
Americana, they'd fold the sheets and make up a dummy. 
And if it looked a bit thin they'd say, "Here, it 
needs a little bulking out. Why don't you write an 
eight page introduction to go with it?" I don't know 
whether that actually happened, but I can think of no 



105 



Lewis: other reason why some of their books should have had 
introductions. 

Interv: What was the first of the books that you wrote then? 

Lewis: I think it was a little book for the Book Club, 

called The Origin of the Jumping Frog. That came 
about because Ed Grabhorn had come across a cot)y of 
a little paper published in Sonora, California in 
1853 that had on its back page a one paragraph story 
about a jumping frog. We reproduced the story in 
facsimile and I did some research and found that the 
yarn had been printed several times in slightly dif 
ferent versions in other mining town naners. All 
this was of course some years before Mark Twain got 
hold of it and made it famous. It's a very slight 
book, less than fifty pages, as I recall. 

Interv: "Hearn and his Biographers, " did that nrecede this? 

Lewis: No, that was later. I belive it was in the late '20's. 
Well you might be right, the Hearn was earlier than 
that. The Hearn was published in 1930 and the jumping 
frog in 1931. 

Interv: Was that about the time you were working on the history 
of San Francisco for the Chicago publishing firm? 

Lewis: Yes. That came out a year or two later, '32 or '33. 



106 



Lewis: It was probably not much earlier though. 

Interv: Was there ever a specific time when you were first 
writing Western Americana? Or had you always .iust 
done some of that? 

Lewis: I think when I started writing for young people's 
magazines at least half of what I wrote was non- 
fiction. I'm quite sure some of it was historical 
material on California. That was about the only thing 
I knew in those days. Not that I know very much more 
now. 

Interv: Did you do a lot of reading of history when you were 
a young man? 

Lewis: I did a lot of reading of everything. I think that 
by reading everything I got my hands on, by the law 
of averages, I must have read a lot of history. I 
always did like to read. I liked history, factual 
history, not so much historical novels. I never 
seemed to get interested in them. 

Interv: What sort of Western history was there available? 

Lewis: There were a lot of things that everybody read, like 
Two Years Before the Maat, Bayard Taylor's El Dorado, 
and so on. 

Interv: They must have been exciting reading to a young man. 



107 



Lewis: I think they're still exciting reading to young people. 

Interv: Was Royce mch read then? Did you come across him? 

Lewis: Yes, I read him quite early. You can read Royce not 
only for what he has to say, but for his manner. He 
was a stylist as well as an excellent historian. I 
very much admired his California from every standpoint- 
its special pleading, its beautifully arranged logical 
argument, and his real sense of style. I think that 
book pretty well demolished the Fremont legrend for 
many people. It came out in the middle '80's when 
Fremont was still a very big figure in the world. 

Interv: What was the "History of San Francisco" project? 

Lewis: It was a job that was offered me, a sort of ghost 

writing job. It was really a mug book. That is, the 
publisher, the Clarke Company, of Chicago, would send 
a team around to different cities, and they would get 
some prominent citizen to front as the author of a 
local history. The San Francisco book was three 
volumes. The first volume was the history, and the 
other two were biographies of nrominent citizens. 
The only requirement was that you subscribe to the 
book. If you subscribed you were a nrominent citizen. 
If you didn't subscribe you could be the mayor or what- 



108 



Lewis: ever, but you were left out. (Laughter) They got 

Lewis Byington who was an agreeable old char, who had 
been district attorney to serve as author. So osten 
sibly he was the author of the book, although he wrote 
none of it. I, who wrote it all, was listed assistant 
editor. But Byington contributed a forward in which 
he refers to it as my book, instead of his book. (Laughter) 
So he let the cat out of the bag. That job was done for 
a fixed fee I believe it was SI, 500. Sut I tried to 
do a decent job, although I wasn't r>aid enough to 
justify spending very much time on it. 

Interv: -Did you have to write all the biographical data? 

Lewis: Oh no, they had people who did that. 

I used that episode in a chapter of a novel 
several years later, called The Uncertain Journey. 

Interv: I wondered about that. 

Lewis: The chap who was in charge of the local crew used to 

come down around the Book Club office, a very nice old 
fellow. He was a very tiny person, almost a midget and 
quite elderly. He told me many stories. The episode 
in the novel was mostly based on things he told me. 
He wanted me to go with him when they moved to the 
next city, at what would have been a pretty good salary 



109 



Lewis: in those days. I was to be his assistant. He'd 
had trouble finding the right r>eor>le to write the 
histories. The biographies gave no trouble because 
they had regular printed forms for the* subscribers 
to fill out. These gave the essentials and were 
sent back to Chicago where they had hack writers 
who took printed forms and wrote the biographies 
from them. 

Interv: Was the job itself of getting a whole history of 

San Francisco together valuable to you in a general 
way? 

Lewis: Well, I don't think it did any harm. I remember I 
was interested. It wasn't a boring job. And f did 
learn a lot about the town. Also, I assembled quite 
a collection of early San Francisco books at nrices 
that were quite reasonable. When I look at the 
dealers' catalo^es nowadays and see what they are 
listed at I congratulate myself on my good .^udennent. 

For instance, Hittell's History of San Francisco, 
which you could find in practically any second-hand 
store in those days at around five dollars, now is 
quite rare and sells for around fifty dollars. I 
think I paid $7.50 for my copy of The Annals of San 



110 



Lewis: Francisco. A number of other San Francisco books 
that were then common are now rarities and bring 
high prices. 

Interv: You were talking last time about your books. One 
of them, an early one, which I believe you edited, 
was Frank Norris of the Wave. Was that a 'Vest gate 
Press book? 

Lewis: That's right, yes. 

Interv: Was that because of any special interest of yours in 
Frank Norris and his writings? 

Lewis: I think probably; I'd always been interested in Prank 
Morris. Somewhere I ran across a bound volume of a 
San Francisco weekly, "The Wave." I forget who owned 
it; it might have been Ed Grabhorn, who was always 
picking up such items. Anyhow, we got the idea of 
making a book of selections from the paper. Norris 
had something in almost every number for several years 
during the middle and late 1890 f s. Some of it had 
been already gathered and renublished in Morris' 
collected works. But a great deal of material had 
never been republished. So we decided to go ahead. 
I collected about twenty stories and articles and wrote 
an introduction, and we had a book. 



Ill 



Interv: -Did the Morris family have to be involved? 

Lewis: Yes, I got in touch with Charles Norris. He was 
very much interested. 

Interv: He was always very proud of his brother, wasn't he? 

Lewis: Yes, very much so. He once said that Prank was really 
the writer of the family and he just tagged along, al 
though he wrote probably three times as much as his 
older brother did. But of course he lived twice as long. 

Interv: He was probably right though, wasn't he, in his ap 
praisal of their work? 

Lewis: Yes. Frank's novels I think will be remembered for a 

long time, whereas Charles is nretty well forgotten al 
ready. I don't think many neonle nowadays read Salt or 
Seed or others of his one-word titled novels. It was 
a writing family. Kathleen, Charles' wife, is a very 
prolific writer; or used to be. 

Interv: We were talking about Hearn and his Biographers. 

Do you remember how many cooies of that were oublished? 

Lewis: I think only about three hundred fifty. The book stir 
red up considerable controversy in the East. There 
were several long letters in the New York Times. The 
Times nublished a long review and Hearn was very much 
in the news for several weeks. 



112 



Interv: People who like Hearn feel very strongly about him, 
don't they? 

Lewis: That's right. They were either very loyal friends or 
just the opposite. 

Interv: What stirred up the controversy? What did peoole take 
exception to? 

Lewis: Well, there was a Dr. George Gould who had befriended 
Hearn before he went to Japan. Hearn thought that 
Gould had taken advantage of him, as he did with most 
of his friends sooner or later. He eventually fell 
out with all of his American friends. He had left 
his library with Gould, supposedly as security for a 
loan. Hearn, as I remember, later claimed that he had 
paid the loan and asked Gould to ship his library to 
him to Japan. But he never heard from the man. There 
were several of Hearn 's letters in reference to the 
library that I quoted in the book. Gould had died 
shortly before the book was nublished, but a friend 
of his wrote the Times Book Review objecting to certain 
references the reviewer had made to Gould and the 
library. And that brought an answer from another of 
Hearn 's friends defending the review. I have some 
where a collection of these various letters. They 



113 



Lewis: stirred up quite a controversy. And of course we 
could have sold more than our three hundred fifty 
copies of the book even though it was quite extensive- 
fifteen dollars. I remember that the man writing in 
defense of Dr. Gould kept referring to "That fifteen 
dollar pamphlet." (Laughter) There's nothing like a 
good row to stir up interest in a book. T sometimes 
wish I could have started a similar row about seme 
of my other books. 

Interv: Did The Big Four stir up a row? 

Lewis: No, not particularly. I don't remember that The Big 

Four did. There was a slight tempest in a teapot when 
my novel I Remember Christine came out. 

Interv: Oh really! Someone thought they saw a familiar subject 
or person in it? 

Lewis: I'll tell you how it happened. One of the characters 
was named Casebolt, a history professor. I used the 
name Casebolt because I liked the sound of it, and be 
cause it was a familiar name in the family. My father 
had done considerable business with a San Francisco 
mill owner named Henry Casebolt. He was the man who 
built many of the cable cars. My father rented nart 
of his factory when Casebolt went out of business and 



114 



Lewis: made it into a planing mill. The factory was down 

on Laguna Street, near Union. That's why I named my 
college professor Casebolt. 

Knopf thought he had the novel sold as a serial 
in the Atlantic Monthly. But the Atlantic was then 
more or less loaded up with serials and it would mean 
holding up the publication of the book for something 
like two years. Knopf advised against it. So the 
Atlantic instead used ,just one chapter, the first 
chapter, which has to do with Casebolt. They published 
it under the title "Portrait of a Professor." 

When the thing was in proof it was read by some 
body in the Atlantic office who had been a student of 
Herbert Eugene Bolton's at Berkeley. This student-- 
ex-student thought that some people might think that 
my Casebolt was a caricature of Herbert Boltcn. One 
day I got a telegram from Edward Weeks asking if 
Casebolt was purely an imaginary character or if it 
was based on somebody. 

Interv: Edward Weeks was then editor? 

Lewis: Yes, he still is. 

I wired back that the character was purely 
imaginary, and explained why I had used the name 
Casebolt. Next I got a letter from the Atlantic '3 



115 



Lewis: attorney asking a long list of ruestions: Did 

Casebolt ever teach at the University of California? 
Did Bolton ever run for Lieutenant Governor? There 
were a number of questions of that sort. I answered 
there all and thought I had surely convinced them 
that the similarity of names was just a coincidence. 
Yet when the magazine came out a month or two later 
the name Casebolt had been changed to Casement. 
(Laughter) The Atlantic was still claying safe. 
Interv: But Knopf in the book let it stand. 
Lewis: Yes. He was not involved in all that. I'm not sure 

he ever knew anything about it. 
Interv: I can't imagine Dr. Bolton or anyone in his family 

caring to sue over it. (Laughter) 

Lewis: Naturally not. Even if he did think he ni^ht have "been 
caricatured, he would hardly have admitted it. My 
Casebolt was not a. very admirable character. I'm 
sure Bolton felt that the matter didn't concern him 
at all. 

It's a curious thing, just lately when John 
Caughey edited an anthology of California writing 
he reprinted this chapter from the Atlantic. He 
added a little note stating that my Casebolt seems to 



116 



Lewis: be a composite of a number of Professors of 
California history. 

Interv: You had not known Dr Bolton? 

Lewis: I had known him very slightly. I never took any of 

his classes. But I'd read some of his books or skim 
med through them. They are excellent examples of 
scholarship, but I did find them a little tough going. 

Interv: I read The Big Four when I was at Stanford. I often 
wondered if anyone in the Stanford family there 
weren't many of them and I suppose they weren't very 
loyal to the memory of Senator Stanford--ob jected . 
No. I don't know who said this, but it's true that 
one can forgive an awful lot of an ancestor who leaves 
you ten million dollars. 

I occasionally hear from history students at 
Stanford who were assigned to write a review of The 
Big Four. So they certainly don't try to suppress it 
down there. 

Interv: Professor Franklin Walker, when he was sneaking to me 
about our interview, mentioned that you nmat have done 
some of your research at Stanford. But as I remember 
there isn't much there on him. 

Lewis: I was down there but I don't remember finding anything 



117 



Lewis: in particular, Nathan Van Patten was the librarian 
then. He was helpful, but they had very little. 

Interv: Where did you do most of your work for it? 

Lewis: I did a lot at the Bancroft and at the San Francisco 
Public Library, in the newspaper room there. The 
newspaper room was a terrible place in those days, 
a small, dark place entirely without air. If you 
stayed for an hour you had to go out and ^et some air 
before you went back. Since the new librarian has 
taken over, they've moved the newsnaoers to a well- 
lighted room on an upper floor. In the old days you 
actually went through the files. Most of the papers 
are on microfilm now. 

Interv: I still feel tired in the shoulders when I think 
about it. 

Lewis: On the other hand, I liked turning the pages better 

than looking at microfilm. I find it hard on the eyes. 

Interv: I think that we read somewhere that The Big Four started 
as a novel. 

Lewis: That's right, yes. I'd written a lot of short fiction. 
If you write fiction, sooner or later you come on some 
thing that won't fit into a short story. 1 had the 
theme for a novel pretty well worked out. I wanted 



118 



Lewis: to show that the progress from rags to riches and 

vice versa was speeded up here in California in the 
early days. A generation or two ago a man who had 
been a day laborer could become a multimillionaire, 
whereas men of education and background might come 
out here and end up sweeping out a bar or something 
like that. 

In preparation for my novel I started reading 
what I could find out about the families that lived 
on Nob Hill, the Crockers and Floods and Stanfords 
and Hopkins. I got so interested in the railroad 
big four that I decided to write a group biography 
about them. About that time Alfred Knopf came out on 
one of his trips to the Coast. He had seen some of 
my work in magazines, and he called me aid I told 
him about my book idea. He encouraged me, so when 
I had the manuscript finished I sent it back to him. 
The novel I had intended to write never got written. 
The nearest to it was I Rememb er Chr 1 s t in e , which is 
a quite different novel than the one I originally 
planned. 

Interv: Did I read somewhere that it was the novel of yours, or 
the piece of writing of yours that you like best? 



119 



Lewis: There are parts of it that I still enjoy reading. 

I can't say that about much of my other writing, so 

it muat be my favorite. 
Interv: The Big Pour, then, was the first nationally nublished 

of your books, wasn't it? 
Lewis: That's right. My first few books were all published 

out here. 
Interv: In the Byington volume, I believe, it says that you 

were, at the time that was published, working on some 
thing called "The Grim Pour." Was that its original 

title? 
Lewis: Yes. That was my working title. I called it "The Grim 

Pour." I don't remember whether I was still holding on 

to that title when it was finished. But somewhere along 

the way we dropped the "grim." 
Interv: Then Knopf continued to publish you for many years, 

didn't he? 
Lewis: He published six others, seven books in all. The first 

one came out in '38 and the last in the early 1050 's. 
Interv: Those were the years of Knotjf's most active uublishinf , 

weren't they? 
Lewis: Those were the times he himself kent in close touch wit^ 

most of his authors. In many respects it was still 



120 



Lewis: almost a one man organization. 



Book Publishers and the V/est 



Interv: This is skipping ahead a little: Someone said that 
you had been Knopf's representative out here for -a 
time. 

Lewis: Yes. T was officially his West Coast editor. But 

what I was really was a sort of book scout, 'nee or 
twice a year I'd go up to Portland and Seattle <~>r down 
to Los Angeles. Someone out here would send in a manu 
script to Mew York or a description of some project he 
was working on or Alfred woxild hear about something 
that sounded promisingand he'd ask me to look up the 
writer and get as much information as I could. 

So on my trips I'd sometimes stop in ^gene, 
Oregon, on ray way to Portland. Or I'd go on South to 
San Diego or Riverside. 

Interv: Was that interesting to do? 

Lewis: Yes, I enjoyed it. But it was a frustrating job be 
cause after you had nursed along a novel or a non- 
fiction book for maybe as long as a yearread the 



121 



Lewis: manuscript and 30 on--when it was finished and sent 
back East almost invariably it was rejected and re 
turned with a oolite letter. That's the trouble 
with writers who live out here. Here in the West 
we're under a handicap in that in almost every case 
the final decisions are made in New York. As I once 
told Alfred, Madison Avenue is not the best possible 
place from which to decide what Californians want to 
read, or to keer> in touch with work being done out 
here that might interest readers all over the country. 
I think that's still true. Nowadays all the pub 
lishers try to cultivate their West Coast market 
because they know a lot of good writing is done 
here and a lot of books sold. But you just can't do 
that by sending out an editor once or twice a year who 
spends two days in San Francisco and two in Los Angele 
and maybe a day in Seattle and then goes back to the 
home office. What these trips usually amount to is 
that the editors invite the writers already on their 
list to lunch, and they have a nice chat and that's 
about all. I doubt if they have any success at un 
earthing any new writing talent. 

Interv: All of the major publishers have tried to keep people 
here as representatives, haven't they? 



122 



Lewis: Most of them do. When Doubleday tried it a few years 
ago, they started in a big way with an elaborate of 
fice and quite a big staff. But somehow it didn't 
work: out. Now they have a modest office with one 
man, Luther Nichols, who is a good man, in charge. 
But Doubleday is still the only ma.lor trade publisher 
that has a West Coast office that I know of. Some 
have salesmen who might be called nart-time editors. 
They not only sell books but keep an eye ooen for 
likely manuscripts. It's one of the handicaps Western 
writers have to put up with. Most of the decisions are 
made in New York, with maybe a few in Chicago or 

Our only Western publishers of any consequence are 
places like the Lane Publishing Company specialized 
publishers out here of any great importance. 

Interv: The University of California Press is the nearest. 

Lewis: That's the nearest, yes. But it's a university pres 

Interv: They published one of your books or more? 

Lewis: Just one, a biography of the early day scientist, 
George Davidson. That was what you might call a 
sponsored book. I believe someone left a fund for tht? 
preparation of his bioftranhy and I was riven the .lob. 

Interv: This brings up a question. Someone quotes in some 



123 



Interv: from what I believe is a manuscript called A History 
of the Bank of California, of yours. 

Lewis: It wasn't a manuscript. It was published as a pamohlet. 
I believe it was to celebrate the seventy-fifth an 
niversary of the founding of the bank. So, they 
brought out a brief history of the bank. James J. 
Hunter was president at the time. I have a copy here. 

Interv: Oh, I see, it was done in the TTewcomen Society series. 
This was after Bonanza Inn, which I suppose gave you a 
good deal of material? 

Lewis: It could have, yes. 

Interv: Bonanza Inn was with Carroll Hall, was it not'? 

Lewis: That's right, yes. 

Interv: How did that develop? 

Lewis: Well, Carroll and I were old friends, and he was also 
interested in local history. He very much enjoyed dig 
ging out material from the newspaper files, and be was 
very good at locating pertinent material. As I re 
member, we talked about doing a book on Hearst's firsl 
years as a newspaper owner the early Examiner and so 
We never did write that. We somehow got sidetracked and 
did the research and I wrote the text. But that wasn' 
always so. I also did some gathering of material and he 



124 



Lewis: wrote some of the text. 

Interv: Did he do the research for you for anything else? 

Lewis: Mo, just Bonanza Inn and the Examiner book that never 
got written. I think I still have a basketful of his 
Examiner notes. I asked him recently why we never 
went ahead with that project. His memory was that 
at about that time several biographies of Hearst had 
come out. And we thought we'd better let our book 
rest a while. Mr. Hearst had been overdone. Carroll 
was then working in a bookstore here in town--3oy 
[Vernon] Sowers', remember Roy Sowers? 

Interv: Oh yes. 

Lewis: He still has a shop down in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 
I think it's nurely a mail order business that he 
does now. 

Interv: Did Bonanza Inn stay in nrint? 

Lewis: It's still in nrint, yes. It still sells a few hundred 
copies a year. Whenever it goes out Knonf nrints an 
other couple of thousand. 

Interv: Do you have any idea how many copies of The Big Four 
have been printed? 

Lewis: No, I believe it's in its seventeenth printing new. 
That's the last I heard. 



Interv: About what size editions do they print? 

Lewis: Not very big now. I think maybe two thousand or twenty- 
five hundred, something like that. 

Interv: Is that your book that has had the largest sale? 

Lewis: No, the book that's had the largest sale is a voung 
peoole's book on Hawaii that Random House published. 
It's in the Landmark Series th^t sells well all over 
the country. I understand many of them go into high 
school libraries. 

Interv: Did you spend a long time in Hawaii? 

Lewis: I soent about a month there. At the time, the publisher 
also wanted me to do another book on Guam, Okinawa and 
the islands around it, as the most remote and least 
known areas of the United States. But after I got to 
Hawaii I asked myself why should I go another three 
thousand miles to write another thirty thousand word 
young people's book, so I turned it down, 
mistake. At the time I had no idea how the Hawaii bcok 
was going to sell. A few years later, after I dis 
covered that it was selling around five or six t'r 
copies a year, I wrote and said I changed my mi>rl abovl 
Guam, and that if they were still interested I w-> 



126 



Lewis: glad to go out and write it. I got- a not very cordial 
letter saving that they had decided not to do a book on 
Guam after all. (Laughter) 

Interv: I suppose there isn't really the intense interest in 
Guam as there is in Hawaii. 

Lewis: At that time it was not long after the war. Of course, 
Guam and Okinawa had been much in the news. But there 
still is need for a book on Guam. It's just a small 
island, but a lot of interesting things have hardened 
there, not only during the war, but earlier, Put 
Random House didn't want it in their Landmark Series. 

Interv: Have you done others in that series? 

Lewis: No. 

Interv: What proportion of your books are initiated by you and 
what by publishers? 

Lewis: In recent years most of them have been initiated by 

publishers. That's true of my current book on Sutter's 
Port. I was asked to do it by Stewart Holbrook who was 
editing a series on historic American forts. Most of 
my recent writings have been what you might call com 
missioned books. 

Interv: I suppose you have a large proportion of requests to dr, 
books that you must turn down. Have you had a select! 
problem? 



127 



Lewis: Yes. I have in recent years because I've been trying 
to taper off. There are one or two things I've been 
promising myself to do. So unless it's something I'm 
particularly interested in, I'd rather turn it down. 

Interv: The Sutter's Port book is in a series edited by Stewart 
Holbrook, is that it? 

Lewis: Yes. He was the general editor, but he died soon after 
the series started. Eight titles have been announced 
so far. But if the first eight gc over, I have no 
doubt there will be others. 

Interv: Do you have other novels that you want to do? 

Lewis: I have one in mind that I'd rather like to write, but 
I don't think I'll ever get around to it. 

Interv: The two novels that we know of are The Uncertain Journe; 
and The Lost Years. Both of those were done with more 
enjoyment than not? 

Oh yes, I enjoyed them both. Fiction is a tood c'-'anert 
of pace. I think the ideal way would be to write a 
novel and then maybe two non-fiction books. It's a 
relief not to have to check the authenticity of every 
statement you make. When you write a novel you don't 
have to put footnotes telling where you got each bit of 
information. 



128 



Interv: The Uncertain Journey I think you said that the 

Clarke Publishing Company appeared in it. Were other 
things in it from your immediate experience? 

Lewis: I'll have to think. 

Interv: It was set in a later neriod than you were in Berkeley. 

Lewis: Yes. It wasn't, I think, autobiographical, not in the 
usual sense. Novelists write about things they know, 
but they alter it to fit the story. I doubt if any 
thing is purely imaginary. Everything is based on 
knowledge of some sort, either something you've learned 
first-hand or something you've read. 

Interv: Sagebrush Casinoa did you lose your shirt while doing 
research for it? (Laughter) 

Lewis: No, but I had a good time doing the research. But my 
gambling experience never went much beyond the ten 
cents slot machines. I've been told too much about 
the house percentages. 

Interv: Was that a book that came as a result of the suggestion 
of a publisher? 

Lewis: No, I think it came about because once I went up to 

Nevada with Howard Cady who came out here as Doubledny' 
editor. He's the one who opened the office originally. 
It was more or less a vacation trio and we took in 



129 



Lewis: Virginia City and of course Reno. I think on that 
trip we talked about a possible book on gambling. 
That was the first book I did for Doubleday. Also, 
on that trip, I think it was, we got over to the lit 
tle town of Austin in central Nevada, A little mining 
town paper, the Reese River Reveille, was still being 
published there, although by then the town had only 
about fifty people. There was a complete file of the 
paper there, going back to Civil War times. I went 
back later and spent several weeks going through the 
Reveille files. It was mostly from excerpts from the 
paper that I compiled The Town That Died Laughing. 

I was going to do the book for Doubleday, but by 
the time it was finished Cady had left Doubleday and 
become editor for a Boston house, Little, Brown and 
Company. So it was published by Little, Brown. 

Interv: I always thought it was hard to switch publishers. 

Lewis: No. It's only hard to switch publishers when your 

publisher is reluctant to let you go. In most cases 
I didn't have too much trouble. (Laughter) 

Interv: Bay Window Bohemia must have been an idea initiated by 
you, since you knew so much of the background. 

Lewis: I think it probably was, although I ,1ust don't re^e 



130 



Interv: Where did the material for that come from it was 

so varied? Partly from your own hearing of stories? 

Lewis: Probably most of it was from people I'd talked to 
and stories I had collected from reading. 

Interv: Did you gather the material up over a long neriod? 

Lewis: I probably did, not knowing that I was gathering 
material for future use. All writers do that. I 
would remember certain things I hadn't used in the 
books I was currently working on, I sunnose that was 
it. But it's awfully hard to reconstruct such things 
after ten or fifteen years. 

Interv: I think the jacket suggests that you knew some of 

the people. We were trying to figure out which ones 
you could have. 

Lewis: I'm sure I didn't know Mark Twain or Bret Harte. 

(Laughter) I knew George Sterling. I used to see 
him quite often. Of the others, I don't know. 
Gertrude Atherton, I guess she appeared in it, althoug 
I've forgotten. I remember talking with her about it. 
I think she gave me some stories, most of which I later 
found she'd already used in her own autobiography. 

Interv: The Gelett Burgess group had left San Francisco by 
the time you came, hadn't they? 



131 



Lewis: That's right. There were one or two still around. 
Porter Garnett was still here. And I had some cor 
respondence because of my work with the Book Club 
with Gelett Burgess when we published one of his 
short stories. It was in a series called "Literary 
Pamphlets" in the keepsakes series. I believe I cor 
responded with Will Irwin, too, although nothing came 
of that. I don't think we ever reprinted anything of 
his. 

Interv: Are there other books that we haven't discussed that 
you found particularly interesting to write? 

Lewis: There's one I always remember because I still set oc 
casional echoes of it, and that is a book on California 
houses called Here Lived the Calif ornians. Rinehart 
published it. The reason I remember it is because 
every once in a while, although the book's lone been 
out of print, the publishers forward me letters from 
readers. And almost invariably they write to tell me 
that I don't know one house from another. (Laughter) 
That stems from the fact that the publisher switched 
the captions beneath pictures of two of the best kno 
houses in California. One of them I remember was th 
Huntington house at 3an Marino, the one that's now 



the 



13? 



Lewis: art gallery. The other was a well known house on 

the San Francisco Peninsula. Of course I he^rd about 
the error as soon as the book was published. T tele 
graphed the publishers, and they wrote back very 
apologetically and said that they were just going 
into a reprinting and of course the mistake would be 
corrected. Well, when I saw the second orinting, I 
found that the captions were still under the wrong 
pictures. (Laughter) And that continued as long as 
the book remained in print, which fortunately wasn't 
long. But peoole still write ana tell me I don't 
know one house from another. (Laughter) Authors 
sometimes get blamed for things that are not their 
fault. 



153 



BOOK REVIEWING 



Interv: As a reviewer have you ever had book reviews c v ; 

Lewis: Not that I know of, no, I don't remember any. 

the only thing I've noticed happen to my reviews is 
that, because of space limitations, the editors will 
sometimes drop out a paragraph. It's not always the 
last paragraph. Sometimes it's in the middle, and 
that usually leaves a glaring gap. The reader wonders 
why the reviewer stopped in the middle of something 
he was saying and went on to something else. But 
that's understandable because of make-u-o problems, 
especially in newspapers and weekly magazines. 

Interv: Have you enjoyed doing book reviews? I know you've 
done a great many. 

Lewis: Yes. One reason I like to do book reviews is because 
you read books you ordinarily would have missed. Some 
times you're in for pleasant surprises. And the books 
I review are usually more or lens in my field: t v . = t 9 
California history and biography, or fiction. 



134 



Lewis: usually glad to get the books and glad to do the 
reviews. 

Interv: Do you have trouble, in this verv small world, in 
reviewing books by friends? 

Lewis: Once or twice I have sent a book back and asked the 
editor to get someone else to review it. That's be 
cause the book was by a friend and I didn't want to 
give it an adverse review. I've only done that two 
or three tines. I don't doubt some of rny friends 
have done the same thing with my books. 

Interv: In New York I suopose the attitude is a little dif 
ferent writing book reviews is a kind of reciprocal 
compliment in some cases. 

Lewis: I don't doubt that. It hanpens. You scratch my 
back and I'll scratch yours. 

Interv: Did you start out doing book reviews fairly early 
in your career? 

Lewis: Not very. I think my first book reviews were for 

Joe Jackson, both for the Argonaut and later for the 
Chronicle. Most of my other reviews were for the 
Herald Tribune, though once in a while I've done one 
for the Saturday Review, and on occasion for the r Tev, 
York Times, but not very often. Maybe I had bad 



135 



Lewis: luck, but in one case it seemed to me that one of 
the New York papers was trying to influence my re 
view, so I said to hell with it. 

Interv: Did Mr. Jackson ever do that with you? 

Lewis: No, no. If it was something he thought I was in 
terested in, he'd send the book over and say, "Give 
me twelve hundred words on this by Wednesday if you 
can." And that was all. There were never any strings 
attached. 



136 



SAN FRANCISCO ART COMMISSION 



Interv: This is in quite a different vein, but we have 

down here that you were a member of the San Francisco 
Art Commission. You must be one of the few writers 
who have been on the Art Commission, are you not? 

Lewis: Yes, but according to the charter, one member of 

the Commission must be a literary man, plus one artist, 
two architects, and one sculptor. I succeeded Gertrude 
Atherton. She was the literary member for a long 
time. When she resigned I served for about ten years. 
Dr. Albert Shumate is now the literary member. 

Interv: Did you find it an interesting experience? It was 
from 1944-1954? 

Lewis: I was appointed for three four-year terms and I quit 
just before the final year. 

Interv: How did you haopen to quit? 

Lewis: I got a little dissatisfied, let's say, with certain 
things that were going on. There was a controversy 



137 



Lewis: over murals for the new Hall of Justice, and the 

artist, John Garth, who had been engaged to do the 
job, was publicly criticized at an Art Commission 
meeting by a member of the art committee. Garth 
called incompetent. It wasn't a matter of good or 
bad art that caused the row, but a matter of sood 
or bad manners. After the meeting, one faction agreed 
that somebody ought to do something about it. I sug 
gested that the commission call a meeting and nublicly 
apologize to the artist, but nothing came of that. 
I was so disgusted that I finally sent in my resigna 
tion to Mayor Christonher. He was very nice about it. 
He said if I'd withdraw my resignation and come back 
he'd back me up. By then the matter had got into the 
newspapers. But I told him that I'd already served 
for eleven years and to appoint somebody else. 

Interv: Were there things that got done during that period 
that you were particularly interested in? 

Lewis: It was a pretty routine, cut and dried thinff. The 

Art Commission did what it was exnected to do. There 
was very little initiative shown. I was supposedly 
head of the literary committee. There was nothing 
the literary committee had to do excent occasionally 



138 



Lewis: to pass on the wording of inscriptions on plaaues 

in public places or on public buildings. Such mat 
ters came up maybe once or twice a year. The archi 
tects had to pass on the design of public buildings 
and on signs that protruded over the sidewalks, etc. 
They had plenty to do. The music committee con 
ducts the pops concerts, and the art committee puts 
on the annual outdoor art shows. It was all pretty 
much the same thing year after year. So, it was not 
a particularly exciting group to belong to. I think 
it must be more lively now because they have a 
couple of maverick members. At any rate, the Art 
Commission gets into the newspapers quite often now. 
In the old days they just went through the paces, 
doing what they were told to do. 



139 



THE WRITER IN THE WEST 



Interv: What were the changes in conditions or climate or 
whatever in writing in the West from the time you 
started as a writer to the post World War II period? 

Lewis: I think when I started the writer in the West had 
an easier time than writers today. 

Interv: The writer in the West particularly? 

Lewis: Well, yes. But it was easier all over the country, 
mostly due to the fact that there were so many more 
magazines in those days. It was comparatively easy 
to break in because both magazines and nev/apapers 
used so much more original material than they do 
today. 

For instance, I dor't think anybody could sup 
port himself writing boys' stories today. There 
just aren't enough magazines. 

Interv: I suppose not. I wondered if there was any tendency 
on the part of the New York publishers to think there 
couldn't be anybody in Berkeley who knew h^w to write, 



140 



Interv: or anywhere in California. 

Lewis: I don't think it was ever quite that bad. But pub 
lishers in the East are not always qualified tc 
judge what people out here want to read. 

Interv: -tiut they were willing to give you the benefit of the 
doubt as much in that neriodl as they are today? 

Lewis: I think so far as book publication is concerned the 
West has always been at a disadvantage. The only 
nationally circulated literary magazine that we ever 
had out here was the old Overland Monthly, and that 
didn't last very long. With all the important maga 
zines and all the publishers on the far side of the 
continent, authors out here are at a disadvantage. 
That's indicated by the fact that for years whenever 
a writer began to make a reputation, he just auto 
matically gravitated to the East Coastmen like 
Twain and Harte, and a lot of others. 

Interv: How did it happen that you chose to stay here? 

Lewis: I suppose, largely because there was no overwhelming 
demand for me to come back East. 

Interv: I suppose writing on western subjects would t)ut you 
in a little different position. 

Lewis: Perhaps that's it. Besides, I never had any desire 



141 



Lewis: to live in the East. If it was a handicap to write 
from the West I was willing to make that sacrifice 
and stay out here. 

Interv: Overriding the considerations of fewer markets today 
in magazines and r>erhar>s fewer hooks bein/? published, 
I don't know, would a young man starting to write in 
California now be on a more equal basis with a young 
man starting to write in Boston or New York than he 
would have been early in the century? 

Lewis: Yes, he finds it easier now. This might sound as 

though I'm denying what I said earlier, but earlier 
I was thinking primarily of magazine writing and of 
the beginning writer. Authors don't begin by writing 
books. They begin, at least they did in the old days, 
by writing for newspapers and magazines. But I think 
today the publisher in the East is more conscious of 
the Western market, and that implies also that he's 
interested in selling his books out here. So he's 
more interested in getting books on Western subjects. 

Interv: Has there been any material change in interest in 
California historypopular books on California 
historythat you've seen? 

Lewis: The general interest, I think, is growing all the 



142 



Lewis: time. The market for Western books if bigger todiy 
than it has ever been. 

Interv: There was an implication earlier, when you were 

speaking about the Westgate Press, that in the '20's 
there was a kind of surge in the market for some sort 
of Western Americana, or was it just fine nress books? 

Lewis: I think we were talking about limited editions which 
were very popular in the late 1920's. You seldom 
see them any more. Thirty years ago you rarely s^w 
a book by a first-rate author that didn't have a 
special edition of five hundred copies or so. Knonf 
was one publisher who did that all the tiirie--for 
Willa Gather, Thomas Mann, William Hudson, the Green 
Mansions man, and others. He would bring out a 
special limited edition, at a higher price, in ad 
vance of the regular one. 

Interv: So on the whole the national interest in Western 

subject matter has just grown apace, is that right, 
year by year? 

Lewis: That's true. Of course a lot of it is due to the 

population growth. Today there are a great many more 
people to buy Western books. 



143 



Interv: I remember during the 1949-50 period there was a 

great surge in California centennial material t>ub- 
liahed, that later was remaindered. 

Lewis: What happened out here in '49 and '50 is the same 

thing that happened on a national level in the early 
'60' a during the centennial of the Civil War. In 
'49 and '50 there was a wide interest in the Gold 
Rush and in statehood, but so many books came out 
that they flooded the market. The same thing hap 
pened with Civil War books. The good ones sold very 
well. Those that came out later, a lot of them, got 
on the remainder tables very fast. 

Interv: They were good bargains. I bought sorce. 

Lewis: Yes, so did I. Some of them were excellent. 

Interv: Is there anything more you would like to have in 
cluded in this general discussion? 

Lewis: I can't think of anything unless you can. I warned 
you at the beginning that it wasn't ecoing to be any 
rich vein you were mining. 

Interv: A very interesting one. We're awfully grateful to you, 



144 



PARTIAL INDEX 



145 



Ackermann, Lloyd, 40 

Altman, Mark, 55 

Altrocchi, Julia, 87 

American Field Service, ?4 

American Mercury magazine, 28 

Anderson, Gregg, 66, 67 

Anderson, Sherwood, 72 

Angelo, Valenti, 65-66 

Archer, L.B., 46 

Argonaut magazine, 91, 134 

Atherton, Gertrude, 84,86-87,88,89,130,136 

Atlantic Monthly magazine, 27,29,114,115 

Austin, Mary, 63 

Author's League of America, 84,96 

Bancroft, Eleanor, 102 

Bancroft Library, University of California, 100,101-102,117 

Bank of California, 123 

Barnes, General W.H.L., 8 

Barry, John D. , 22,40-41 

Bender, Alfred, 36,40,49-57 

Benson, Stella, 79 

Bentley, Wilder, 76-77 

Berkeley High School, 11-12,13,18 

Bierce, Ambrose, 51 

Bissell, William, 77 

Blake, James D., 41 

Bohemian Club, 97 

Bolton, , 101 

Bolton, Professor Herbert Eugene, 114,115,116 

Book Club of California, 36-63.82,90,91,93,96,103,104,105, 
108,131; secretary of, 36-39; membership, 40-49; Albert 
Bender, 49-57; depression years, 57-60; Quarterly 58, 
60-61; honorary members, 61-63 

Book reviewing, 133-135 

Boy's Life magazine, 15 

Brandenstein, H.U., 41 

Bremer, Ann, 41,45,54 

Bremer, Milton, 41 



145 



Brisac, B.F., 55-56 

Brizee, Mr. , 102 

Brown, A. A., 42 

Bruce, John, 22 

Bulletin newspaper, 22,40,45 

Burgess, Gelett, 130 

Byington, Lewis, 108 

Bynner, Witter, 61-63 

Cady, Howard, 128 

Caldwell, Professor James, 81 

California Historical Society, 89,90,97-100; publications 

committee, 97,98-99; library, 98,100 
Gall-Bulletin newspaper, 22 
Casebolt, Henry, 113-114 
Gather, Willa, 142 
Caughey, John, 115 
Chipman, Miner, 82 
Christopher, Mayor George, 137 
Chronicle newspaper, 22,32,91,92,134 
Clark, Charles W., 69 
Clark, William Andrews, 42,69 
Clarke Company, Chicago (publishers), 107,128 
Coast and Geodetic Survey, 7 
Coffroth, James, 69 
Cole, Miss L. Averill, 42 
Collier's magazine, 27 
Cook, David C. Company, 14 
Cook, Thomas C. and Company, 33-34 
Coolbrith, Ina, 50 
Colt Press, 67,77-78 
Cowan, Robert I., 42 
Cowan, Robert I., Jr., 42-43 
Crane, Clarkson, 37 
Crocker family, 118 
Crocker, Templeton, 89-90 

Davidson, George, 7,122 

Davis, William Heath, 45 

Dawson, Emma Frances, 50,51-52,67 

Dean, Mallette, 65,66 

Dixon, Maynard, 80-81,82,83 

Dobie, Charles Caldwell, 84-86,88,94 

Doubleday and Company (publishers), 122,128,129 



147 



Elliot, James, 73 
Ellis, Havelock, 72 
Examiner newspaper, 123,124 

Family Club, 46 
Federal Architect's Office, 7 
Fellows, Maude, 38 
Field, Sara Bard, 81,82 
Flood family, 18 
Forward magazine, 13-14 
Fremont, General John C., 107 
French Army, 24 

Gallway, Dr. John, 43 

Gannon, John Ira, 66-67 

Garnett, Porter, 76-77,131 

Garth, John, 137 

Gayley, Professor Charles Mills, 16 

Ghirardelli Square, 67 

Gould, Dr. George, 112 

Grabhorn, Edward, 65,71,105,110 

Grabhorn, Jane, 67,77- 

Grabhorn Press, 56,60,64-68,70-72,74,104 

Grabhorn, Robert, 65,71 

Gunst, Morgan, 43-44 

Hall , Conrad , 123-124 
iarper'a magazine, 27,29,86 
Hart, Professor James D. , 101 
Harte, Bret, 51,130,140 
Harvard University, 73 
Hearn, Lafcadio, 94,105,111-113 
Hearst, Mrs. Phoebe A., 44 
Hearst, William Randolph, 69, 123,124 
Henderson, Gertrude, 18 
Herald Tribune newspaper, 91,134 
lolbrook, Stewart, 126,127 
Hopkins family, 118 
Howell, John, 44-45 
Howell, Warren, 89 
Hudson, William H., 142 
Hunter, James, 123 
Huntington, Henry, 90 



148 



Independent magazine, 27 
Irwin, Will, 131 

Jackson, Joseph Henry, 91-93,134,135 

Jacobson, Pauline, 45 

Jeffers, Robinson, 63 

Johnck, John, 74 

Johnck and Seeger (printers), 74 

Johnson, Cecil, 76 

Johnson, James, 76 

Kelland, Clarence Buddington, 15 

Knopf, Alfred, 114,115,118,119-120,121,124,142 

Laboratory Press, Pittsburgh, 76-77 

Lane Publishing Company, 99,122 

Lange, Dorothea, 81,83 

Lee, Virginia, 31 

Lehman, Benjamin, 16-17,87 

Lewis family, 1-12; William P., father, 1-4; Anna Walter, 
mother, 4-6,10,11; Edward Lennon, step-father, 5-6; 
Walter, Harry, William, and Harold, brothers, 6; Thomas 
U. Walter, great-grandfather, 7-8; Horace Walter, grand 
father, 8-10; grandmother, 10; Betty Mooney, wife, 80,88 

Library of Congress, 7 

Lick House, 2 

Little, Brown and Company (publishers), 129 

Lundberg, Florence, 45 

McBride's magazine, 31 
McClure's magazine, 62 
McMurtry, Belle, 42,45 
Magee, David, 39 
Markham, Edwin, 61 
Mann, Thomas, 142 
Maslin, Marsh, 22 
Mechanic's Library, 2,100 
Mencken, H.L., 28-29 
Miss Ransom's School, 38 
Montalvo, 88 
Montez, Lola, 77-78 



149 



Nash, John Henry, 42,46 

Nash Press, 64,67-70,73,74,75 

Nathan, George Jean, 28-29 

Nathan, Paul, 55 

National Archives, 7 

Newbegin, John, 41,45-46 

Newcomen Society, 123 

New Republic magazine, 27,28,29 

New York Times newspaper, 111,112,134 

New Yorker magazine, 30 

Newton, A. Edward, 47,61 

Nichols, Luther, 122 

Norris, Charles, 111 

Norris, Frank, 110-111 

Norris, Kathleen, 111 

O'Day, Edward F. , 46 

O'Day, Nell, 46 

Older, Fremont, 40,45 

Ottley, Allan, 101 

Outlook magazine, 27,34 

Overland Monthly magazine, 21,30,31,1 

Palace Hotel, 1 

Panama-Pacific Exposition, 19-21 

PEN Club, 84,89,96 

Phelan, Senator James, 88 

Philpot, ArAen, 60 

Pillsbury, Madison and outro (law firm], 

Pope, Bertha, 36 

Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1.5 

Priestly, ., 101 

Random House (publishers), 125 
Reese River Reveille newspaper, 129 
Rinehart and Company (publishers), 131 
Ritchie, Ward, 66 
Robinson, A.M., 44 
Robinson, Will, 99 
Rockwell, Norman, 15 
Roth, William Matson, 67,77 
Roxburghe Club, 95-96 
Royce, _, 107 



150 



Russell, Bertrand, 71 
Russell, George, 86 

Russell, Mrs. , 86,87 

Russell, Thomas C., (printer) , 75 

Saint Nicholas magazine, 15 

San Francisco Art Commission, 136-138 

San Francisco Ha] 1 of Justice, 137 

San Francisco Public Library, 100,117 

San Simeon, 99 

Saturday Evening Post magazine, 15,27 

Saturday Review magazine, 27,134 

Scribner's magazine, 27,29,86 

Shumate, Dr. Alfred, 136 

Smart Set magazine, 28, 29 

Sowers, Vernon (Roy), 124 

Sproul, Allan, 18 

Sproul, Robert, 18 

Standard Oil Company, 73-74 

Stanford family, 118 

State Library, Sacramento, 100-101 

Steinbeck, John, 71 

Sterling, George, 50-51,130 

Stewart, George, 99 

Sutro, Alfred, 40,46-47,58 

Sutro, Oscar, 47 

Swinnerton, Jane, 67,77 

Taylor and Taylor (printers), 67,68,72-74 

Taylor, Bayard, 106 

Taylor, Dr. Edward Robeson, 47-48,73 

Taylor, Edward, Jr., 47-48,60 

Taylor, Henry, 47-48,60 

Taylor, Professor Paul, 81 

The American Boy magazine, 15 

Boys* World magazine, 14 
The Recorder newspaper, 46 
The Writer's Magazine, 13 
The Youth's Companion magazine, 15 
Todd, Frank Morton, 22 
Trade Pressroom, 75 
Twain, Mark, 37,105,130,140 



151 



University of California, 6,16,62-63,81; Extension 

School, 76; Press, 122 
University of Pittsburgh, 77 
Updike, D.B., 73 
Upham, Issac 0,, 48 

United States Army Medical School, 25 
United States Capitol Building, 7 



Van Patten, Nathan, 117 
Von Schmidt, Harold, 66 



Waite, Edgar 



Waite, Edgar, 31-32 

Walker, Professor Franklin, 116 

Walter, D.N. and E. Company, 48 

Walter, Edgar, 48 

Walter, Florence, 48-49 

Wnl -her* .TnVm . Aft 



Walter, John 



ffcisnDisn, ixouero, t? 

Weeks , Edward , 114 

Wenzel, Caroline, 101,102 

Westgate Press, 71-72,77,93-94,110,14 

White. Stewart Edward. 94 



Westgate Press, 71-72,77,93-94,110,142 

White, Stewart Edward, 94 

Windsor Press, 76 

Wood, Colonel Charles Erskine Scott, 81,83 

Woolf, Virginia, 71,72 



7 r 

3-15,106,139; for literary 
23-132; discipline, 103-104; 

"1 /"> C ~\ f\ -. \3-lr~*4-s^~v**<r *-x-^* C* rt v^ 



magazines, 27-32; 103-120, 123-132; discipline, 
editing, 104-105; early books, 105-106; History of ?an 
Franc is co project, 107-110; controversies over books, 
110-116; aizc of editions, 124-126; commissioned books 
126-127; writing novels, 127-128; gathering materials, 
130; Western writer at disadvantage, 140-141; growing 

H in 4-r>TQC't -in Wo<3 + Tr <anViTsr-t-c! ~l/~l_~l/l"'', 




Yeats, William Butler, 53 

Young People's Weekly magazine, 14 

Tcmng, W.R.K., 40,42,45,49